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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

Bad Nature

Javier Marías

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To purchase Bad Nature

Title: Bad Nature
Author: Javier Marías
Genre: Novella
Written: 1996 (Eng. 1999)
Length: 57 pages
Original in: Spanish
Availability: Bad Nature - US
in Mala índole - US
Bad Nature - UK
Bad Nature - Canada
Bad Nature - India
Mala índole - España
  • or With Elvis in Mexico
  • Spanish title: Mala índole
  • Translated by Esther Allen
  • First published in English translation in Granta in 1999; first published in book-form in 2010

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Our Assessment:

B+ : fine, small piece

See our review for fuller assessment.

The complete review's Review:

       Bad Nature is a small piece of fiction (now published in a small, handy paperback edition in New Directions 'Pearl' series), but it is both a nicely rounded little thriller, as well as an amusing piece of Marías' larger and often interconnected œuvre (yes, the narrator is a figure that appears elsewhere in Marías' work, too).
       It begins dramatically enough:

     No one knows what it's like to be hunted down without having lived it
       In typically expansive and digressive Marías-style, the narrator suggests and explains what it is like, and then tells how he came to be one of the hunted. The saga began decades earlier, in the early 1960s, when the narrator, Ruibérriz (whose name was transformed in American pronunciation to 'Roy Berry', leading everyone to call him 'Roy'), a Spaniard in his early twenties, had gone to Hollywood to work in movies. He got hired to work on an Elvis Presley film -- what would become Fun in Acapulco -- because Presley wanted to speak and sing with a true Spanish accent, rather than a Mexican one.
       Roy became part of Presley's entourage, and during filming in Mexico joined the restless Elvis on excursions and outings to Mexico City and elsewhere. Naturally, Elvis' appearance generally caused people to go fairly wild; it also often caused men to get jealous of the way women reacted to the King. Still, for the most part the group managed to stay out of trouble.
       One time, however, they don't -- and it's Roy that's left in and with the mess. It's easy to blame him, too -- though he notes his role was simply that of intermediary:
"It was Mike, he told me what to say to you and all I did was translate."
     "Ah, you didn't do anything but translate," the fat one interrupted. "Too bad we don't know if that's true, we don't speak English. Whatever Elvis said we didn't understand, but you we understood, you speak very clearly, in a little bit of a rush like everyone else back in Spain, but we hear you loud and clear, and you can rest assured that we're listening."
       Yes, translation lands Roy in deep, deep trouble, and translation forces Roy on the run.
       It's an amusing idea, and it's nicely presented; Marías even does the thriller-ish aspect quite well, including Presley's scrubbing of his Mexican misadventures from the record. The portrait of Presley and life with a star is also well-done.
       Bad Nature is a great little first taste of Marías' work, and a quick read. It's not a true thriller, but gives a good idea of what Marías likes to do -- and is capable of doing -- (generally on far larger scale), and it is, on its own, also a solid short novella.

- M.A.Orthofer, 1 May 2010

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Bad Nature: Reviews: Javier Marías: Other books by Javier Javier Marías under review: Books about Javier Javier Marías under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Spanish author Javier Marías lived 1951 to 2022.

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