With high black humor, a visiting Spanish lecturer bends his gaze over that most British of institutions, Oxford University. In All Souls, our narrator views Oxford through a prismatic detachment, alternately amused, puzzled, delighted, and disgusted by its vagaries of human vanity. A bit lonely, not always able to see his charming but very married mistress, he casts about for activity; he barely has to teach. His stay of two years, he recalls, involved duties which "were practically nil" – "Oxford is a city in syrup, where simply being is far more important than doing or even acting." Yet so much goes into that simply being: friendship, opinion-mongering, one-upmanship, finicky exchanges of favors, gossip, adultery, book-collecting, back-patting, back-stabbing. Marías has a sweet tooth for eccentricity, and his novel "crackles with deliciously sly observations of Oxford mores," as James Woodall noted in the Independent. And yet further, All Souls is a love story within a "mysterious narrative," as The New Statesman noted, "within a turmoil of choreographed stories."
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