Absence Makes the Art
Marcos Giralt Torrente's elliptical stories of lost love
The End of Love
by Marcos Giralt Torrente
translation by Katherine Silver
$22.00 List Price
Marcos Giralt Torrente’s short-story collection The End of Love is haunted by an ellipsis. There it is in the first story, “We Were Surrounded by Palm Trees,” right where the eye rests, intervening with a pause before we’ve even read the opening lines: “. . . I remember when it started. There is one scene that comes back to me, frequently, though it seems arbitrary to focus on it.” The scene our narrator fixates on—hesitantly, with the attention, it seems, of a writer—takes place on an unnamed island in the Indian Ocean, off the coast of Africa. It is familiar enough in fiction involving travel by Westerners to the tropics: A couple is settling into their room with the sour familiarity of tourists who’ve been gone from home for too long. There is a mosquito net to be hung, toiletries to be sorted, a bed to make up with whatever is at hand. The narrator and his wife, Marta, have a difference of opinion about another couple who have traveled to this remote island with them, Paul, a German “with the well-educated manners of a middle-aged lothario,” and Christine, his younger, more damaged partner, part “lover-nurse,” with the “devotion of a disciple.” The narrator is upset that they’ll have company for their two days on the island, which is known for its antiques at bargain prices; Marta is annoyed by his carping and wonders aloud where his sense of adventure has gone. It is all “fastidiously normal,” as travel goes, even the suggestion of sexual rivalry and the bottles of insect repellent spread out on the bedcover.
“It must have been there,” the story’s narrator recalls,