'What excites you?' a girl asks the hero at a party. 'Art', he replies. Speaking of the heroine, the girl continues: 'And Marietta, what excites her?'. 'Risk', he says. The girl interprets this to mean 'sex'. And she is not mistaken. Indeed, Mara, Marietta is a love story told primarily through art and sex. In a heady cocktail of music, dance, cinema, sex, painting and poetry, the story moves from Princeton to Paris, and from there radiates out around the world. She is a theoretical physicist and a musician, he a poet and rock song lyricist. They meet in New Jersey, say goodbye, then meet by chance three years later in Paris. In a midnight bar he tells her he's having trouble with the novel he's writing. She says, 'Tell the truth. That often makes the best fiction'. He asks her how. She says, 'Have you ever had your heart broken? I mean really broken, so that you had nothing left but your eyes to cry with? That would strip you down to your truth'. He says he hasn't, then asks her, 'Will you do it for me?'. 'Do what?' 'Break my heart.' Softly, but distinctly, she says, 'Yes, I will'. Between two beats of his heart he hears himself say, 'Thank you'. After seven years together she leaves him, in a way rarely, if ever, seen in fiction. From then on he begins writing her a 'very long love letter', one which moves from magical realism to a cinematic depiction of all they have lived together. (By the way, if you haven't guessed, the letter is the novel itself.) From the archaeology of childhood to the founding of an ethics, from the investigation of desire to the affirmation of life as creation, the lovers discover through each other at once their own buried history and the deepest intimacy of the other. Mara, Marietta: A Love Story in 77 Bedrooms is neither for cheap-thrill seekers nor for readers who only seek new twists on stale conventions. Rather, it is a tale for adults who are unafraid to open their hearts and minds to the intelligence of the body and the soul.
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About the Author
Richard Jonathan was born in South Africa, grew up in Canada, studied in London and lives in Toulouse. He is a passionate European, teaching, for example, a university course on ‘The Idea of Europe’. When he is not earning his living as a translator, he enjoys drilling down into the puns of Jacques Lacan and James Joyce, the paradoxes of Heraclitus and Lao Tse, and the lyrics of Fiona Apple and Tom Verlaine. ‘Silence, exile and cunning’ have afforded him refuge from invasive consumerism, while his engagement with all forms of art has allowed him to find as much pleasure in the wit of Vivienne Westwood as in the architecture of ‘Finnegans Wake’. One more thing: Islands and empty spaces fill his daydreams; night-times of dream-work return him to reality. Whatever the realm, in the secret cell of his heart there is always and only Marietta. Is he not a touch mad? Read on. Once upon a time a boy, Richard Jonathan by name, needed to save his life. Art came to the rescue. In the ‘smithy of his soul’ he forged at once an ethics and an aesthetic: Risk alone is the way forward. Cut your own path. Advance open-handed. Give, give, and never give up. Has he written any other books? No. He has but one accomplishment to his name: ‘Mara, Marietta: A Love Story in 77 Bedrooms’. Has he fought the good fight, then, has he finished his course? Some say so. Others say that book is but the beginning. And the author himself? All he has to say is: ‘I don’t have to speak, Marietta speaks for me’. Well, I do believe he’s a touch mad. (Wonder if there really are 77 bedrooms.) And another thing—No, that’s enough. Well then, what about the epigram to his book: ‘By a name I know not how to tell thee who I am’? Is that not a key to his biography? I said that’s enough! All right, all right! But we must mention the theme of the double—Mara, Marietta—for that’s surely— Enough! Reader, since the author will not speak except through his book, I will tell you this about him: What makes him special as a writer? Shakespeare could appeal in the same play to both aristocrats and groundlings: that is an ideal he aspires to. He refuses to surf the tidal wave of formatted commercial fiction. He upholds the values of literature: to challenge as well as to entertain. The more the reader bring to his book, the more they get out of it.