Marius: p. 195, Howard Jacobson’s THE ACT OF LOVE

For almost 200 pages of Howard Jacobson’s novel, she has been feeling revulsion for a character called Marius, who is introduced by the narrator as a lech, a womanizer, a shallow, vapid stealer of women.

SPOILERS OF THE MOST DAMNABLE SORT

In fact, this is the person who the narrator deems most likely for his wife to fall in love with. This is an Othello fable where Othello hopes his Desdemona is unfaithful, because he pines to be a voyeur. (This is a very British tale. Can’t imagine such a plot device going down well in her home country. But maybe a blog reader can enlighten self about this?)

On p. 194 of THE ACT OF LOVE, the narrator gets fed up with Marius’s dilly-dallying. He decides to provoke him. He’s been following Marius around for days, and Marius doesn’t seem to have a clue how to seduce the narrator’s wife. So he follows Marius to a coffee shop on High Street.

Marius: Why are you stalking me?

Narrator: Who said I was stalking you? I mentioned I’d seen you with a beautiful woman, that’s all.

Marius: And what’s that to you? Are you a private investigator?

Narrator: No. I’m more what you’d call a pervert if you really want to know what I do.

Marius: And you think telling me this will make me feel better about talking to you? What would you do if I told you to get lost?

Narrator: If I thought you meant it, I’d get lost.

Marius: If you thought I meant it! Is this what a pervert does? Hangs around people who tell him to get lost while he decides whether or not they mean it? Why don’t you just call yourself a glutton for punishment and have done.

Self really, really loves this conversation.

It’s so interesting that self is beginning to feel quite a lot of empathy for Marius! Who would have thought, this late in the book?

Jacobson, you’re so sly!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

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