Man Booker International Shortlist 2018: Like a Fading Shadow by Antonio Munoz Molina
Book Worm is continuing to read through the International Man Booker shortlist. Book Number 4 for her is Like a Fading Shadow by Antonio Munoz Molina.
Synopsis from Goodreads: A hypnotic novel intertwining the author’s past with James Earl Ray’s attempt to escape after shooting Martin Luther King Jr.
The year is 1968 and James Earl Ray has just shot Martin Luther King Jr. For two months he evades authorities, driving to Canada, securing a fake passport, and flying to London, all while relishing the media’s confusion about his location and his image on the FBI’s Most Wanted list. Eventually he lands at the Hotel Portugal in Lisbon, where he anxiously awaits a visa to Angola. But the visa never comes, and for his last ten days of freedom, Ray walks around Lisbon, paying for his pleasures and rehearsing his fake identities.
Using recently declassified FBI files, Antonio Muñoz Molina reconstructs Ray’s final steps through the Portuguese capital, taking us inside his feverish mind, troubled past, and infamous crime. But Lisbon is also the city that inspired Muñoz Molina’s first novel, A Winter in Lisbon, and as he returns now, thirty years later, it becomes the stage for and witness to three alternating stories: Ray in 1968 at the center of an international manhunt; a thirty-year-old Muñoz Molina in 1987 struggling to find his literary voice; and the author in the present, reflecting on his life and the form of the novel as an instrument for imagining the world through another person’s eyes.
Part historical fiction, part fictional memoir, Like a Fading Shadow masterfully explores the borders between the imagined, the reported, and the experienced past in the construction of identity.
Book Worm’s Thoughts: Based on the description I was expecting to enjoy this one more than I did. There is nothing wrong with the book that I can put my finger on, I just didn’t connect with it.
In terms of character development and plot, not a lot happens. We know that Ray is captured and the sections featuring his character are based on FBI case files. So while the author is trying to get inside Ray’s mind, it all felt rather cold and factual to me.
The section where the author explores his own behaviour were more interesting. We see him move from a young husband with a family to a detached “writer.” What comes across is the fact that he coldly sacrificed his family for his book. At the end there is a hint of regret about his choices, but not enough that he would change anything.
My favourite sections were the sections that dealt with writing — the nature of stories, what you must sacrifice to be a writer, and how writing is an obsession not merely a job.
I would class this as a slow-paced character study.
Here are my ratings:
Writing quality: 3/5
Character development: 2/4
Plot development: 2/4
Overall enjoyment: 1/2
We want to hear from you. Have you read this book? What did you think? Does it appeal to you?
Ranking to date (click on the links to read the other reviews):
1. Vernon Subutex One (16/20)
1. Frankenstein in Baghdad (16/20)
2. The White Book (14/20)
3. Like a Fading Shadow (11/20)
I always enjoy an honest review. Thanks for providing us with one.