This is an extract from the very end of an imaginary interview with a character called Javier Marías. The interviewer is a character called Daniel Hartley. The extract, all I could find of this long-forgotten interview that never took place in a Madrilenian café, begins at the point where interviewee transforms into interviewer.
JM: So what type of man do you think I am?
DH: I think you’re the type of man who finds it unbearable to sit in a café or a restaurant if there is someone sat behind him, because his eyes should always be the last pair in the room, unwatched, but all-watching. You’re the type of man who mistakes habitual introspection for profundity and precise prolixity for compassionate intelligence. You’re the type of man who takes upon his shoulders the pain and badly hidden neuroses of a room of strangers, who suffers on their behalf, but does so constantly with one eye on the hidden gloriousness of that suffering. You’re the type of man who knows it is pretentious to be photographed in black and white behind a typewriter with chin in hand in thoughtful equipoise, but who knows also that without the ironic indulgence of this bohemian cliché, he would fall to pieces, like a dead soul shorn of its ghostly carapace. You’re the type of man who is trapped in legends, and who can’t get out. And in every beautiful phrase you write, there is a lonely boy peering out, wondering how his father could be so genuine when the only thing that he can do is act. You are, in short, a man who longs to be a Hamlet, and therefore Hamlet shall ye never be.
Paper-clipped to this extract I found a scrap of notepaper in Daniel Hartley’s handwriting. It said: ‘Met JM today. Was like talking to a mirror.’