Soledad Puértolas: Queda la noche [The Night Remains]
The heroine/narrator of this book is Aurora, an unmarried thirty-something. She has had a succession of boyfriends but the relationships have not worked out. She is currently having an affair with a married politician Fernando, but is tired of waiting for his phone calls and then only for a quick romp in the hay, so she is planning on ending the relationship.
Every summer she likes to get away. Her parents are elderly and need looking after when they go to their holiday flat in El Arenal (Majorca). Fortunately, Gisela Von Rotten, an old friend of the family, who owes much to Aurora’s parents, is also single and happy to take on the task. However, this year she is unable to do so as she is looking after the son of friends. The friends had both died in a traffic accident and the boy is troubled and using drugs. Gisela thinks he is a priority.
Aurora accompanies her parents to El Arenal but she is able to hire a young woman who is saving up to get married and is happy to look after the couple. Aurora heads back to Madrid where she meets a friend, Mario. Mario is going to the East and suggests that she accompany him which she does. They go to Kyoto and Hong Kong before heading to New Delhi, where the story really starts.
In the hotel she and Mario meets a group of people, including Ishwar, to whom Aurora is attracted. We follow her story in India, which includes meeting Gudrun Holdein, a German woman, a regular visitor to the hotel, who is keen on making friends and on photographing Aurora and the others. She also meets James Wastley, a British film producer and a friend of Ishwar. She is attracted to both men. Finally, she meets another Spanish woman, Angela, and goes with her to the Taj Mahal, where Angela has some sort of attack, possibly caused by the heat.
The holiday ends and she returns home. James, an opera buff, had made a comment during a meal they were having, saying There are two ways of getting interested in opera: seeing Norma at La Scala and seeing the film Fitzcarraldo. For me, that sounds like pretentious twaddle, but Aurora takes it to heart.
Gisela calls one day and says that she has tickets to see Norma, albeit in Madrid and not at La Scala, and Aurora agrees to go. At the last minute Gisela has to drop out and sends along a neighbour to replace her. He is Alberto Villaró, a married man whose wife has told him that she wants a divorce. Alberto turns out to be somewhat pompous and like all too many men, clearly thinks of himself as an expert on women. Basically, he says, women have all the advantages, even though they do not know how to use these advantages. You lack a sense of security. That is the only problem.
Aurora is not impressed but does go out with him a few times. It becomes clear that he is using her to make his wife jealous and she uses him to make Fernando jealous.
Not only does this not work, other things do not. There are various family crises. Gudrun Holdein turns up with the photos she took and an expensive bracelet for Aurora, allegedly a gift from Ishwar. Angela is killed in a car crash and the police question Aurora. James Wastley also turns up, with strange tales to tell. Aurora does get to see Fitzcarraldo and is impressed.
Gradually, however, we see Aurora with a feeling that her life is not under her control. Things happen, despite her but which affect her: her parents, her friends, her boyfriends, Angela, James and Gudrun, everything turns our to be decidedly messy and more complicated than it might have at first seemed. Indeed, we get a major plot twist which reinforces Aurora’s view that things happen to her which she cannot control.
For Aurora, as a woman, she is very conscious that life is not straightforward. She says, for example, I do not believe in sexual satisfaction. Men are the only ones who have the formula for satisfaction. For a woman, whether she obtains satisfaction or not, life carries on the same way: unsatisfactory. Indeed, she ends the book by saying that all she can hope for is the offering of the night.
This book is clearly not a happy book. We have a woman who is something of a lost soul, trying to cope with life and not particularly succeeding very well. Several of the other women in the book also struggle: Gisela, Gudrun, Angela, Aurora’s mother and her sister Raquel, Carolina, friend of Gudrun and aunt of one of Aurora’s boyfriends, and Sofia, Aurora’s uncle’s wife. All of these women find life difficult at times, while the men stumble through life, generally concerned only with themselves, their sexual life, their pride, their status and what they can get out of life, without contributing too much, while the women have to carry the burden. Undoubtedly there is some truth in that and Puértolas makes her point well.
Interestingly, the book has been translated into four languages but not into English.
First published 1988 by Planeta
No English translation
First published in French as Reste la nuit in 1992 by Denoël
Translated by Marie-Claude Dana
First published in German as Es bleibt die Nacht in 1996 by ECON-Taschenbuch-Verlag
Translated by Ilse Layer
Also published in Chinese and Polish