Like a Fading Shadow

Written by Antonio Muñoz Molina Camilo A. Ramirez (trans.)
Review by Viviane Crystal

In April 1968, Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated by James Earl Ray. Ray was not caught immediately, instead escaping to Lisbon, Portugal.

Our author travels to Lisbon in 1987 to research this story, which he wants to turn into something of a detective novel, A Winter in Lisbon. The plot appears at first to be relatively simplistic, but it becomes a complex, meditative journey. The two narrative voices belonging to Ray and Molina often converge momentarily but then evolve into surrealistic, divergent ramblings.

This is the story of two lost individuals. Ray has quite a criminal past and has never really known a time when he wasn’t running from arrest, being imprisoned or disconnected from all humanity. Molina can’t find a narrative voice or a meaningful plot to depict, so his journey to Lisbon and other places becomes a search for meaning in his own life. He feels that, if one doesn’t write purposefully every day, can one tell people one is a writer? He is married with children yet he is only happy when he travels for “research.” Ray is like someone suffering from an obsessive-compulsive condition, reading newspapers and magazines from cover to cover. Molina sees the inherent beauty and power of story in jazz music and the literature of the past twenty years.

Satisfaction eludes both travelers; they are successful, but not by society’s standards. Ray finds peace only when finally arrested; Molina’s novel is a success that he is unable to personalize. In reality, each evolves into a mirror image of the other character, and that is the fascinating aspect of this evocative linguistic journey of two fading, shadowed souls.