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What is left of love in the midst of the everyday grind? Perfect Days is a novel about the power of imagination

A story about love, but mostly an ode to imagination. Perfect days by Spanish writer Jacobo Bergareche is a passionate novel.

Deadly marriage

With the excuse that it is necessary for his work, Spanish journalist Luis visits a conference in Austin, Texas. But actually, the trip is mainly an excuse to escape his dead-end marriage to Paula and be able to meet his mistress Camila. He met this Mexican architect two years earlier in Austin, and they have since spent seven intense days and nights together. Those perfect days provide the fuel for Luis to cope with the endless days at home that thread themselves together full of drudgery and devoid of joie de vivre.

But just before they will meet again, Camila informs her that her husband has unexpectedly decided to accompany her. Let's leave it at that and cherish the memory, she writes to Luis, who is at a loss for words. On a visit to the Harry Ransom Centre, a huge archive where correspondences and other documents of numerous celebrities are stored, he becomes fascinated by William Faulkner, Paula's favourite writer. Luis reads Faulkner's letters to his mistress Meta, and they make him think. About the meaning of his relationship with Camila, but also about his marriage to Paula, which is dying.

Long letters

Perfect days consists of two long letters: one from Luis to his mistress and one from Luis to his wife. In Camila's letter, he tells how much their days together meant to him, how she gave luster to existence and made him like new again. Their infatuation made spareribs a meal of gods, and a cloud of bats at sunset the most beautiful sight. "Reality expanded, appeared more profound to me, I could be so many new things to you, and she could be so many new things to me."

But Faulkner also makes him realise that Camila saves their relationship from the fate that eventually befalls almost every longer-term relationship; even Faulkner's affair falls prey to boredom and bleeds to death.

Spanish writer Jacobo Bergareche ©Belén García-Mendoza

In a letter, Paula shares with him for the first time his despair, his sense of loneliness and separation, and his longing for the perfect days they once had together. Not the orchestrated weekends away, which usually turn out to be as disappointing as normal days, but those rare days that unfold naturally without time, leaving room for spontaneity, fantasy and experiencing love.

He sends the email just before taking the plane back to Spain, unsure of her response. "For now we are left wondering what will happen tomorrow, what kind of day awaits us, but at least we know that it will be different from anything else, that something will finally happen to us tomorrow."

Perfect days is a passionate and occasionally moving story about how love becomes drab if you are not careful and allow yourself to get caught up in the mundane concerns of existence. But above all, it is a wonderful ode to the power of imagination. For it is what gives life colour.

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Jacobo Bergareche, Perfect days (192 p.). Translated from the Spanish by Nadia Ramer. Wereldbibliotheek, € 21.99

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Wijbrand Schaap

Cultural journalist since 1996. Worked as theatre critic, columnist and reporter for Algemeen Dagblad, Utrechts Nieuwsblad, Rotterdams Dagblad, Parool and regional newspapers through Associated Press Services. Interviews for TheaterMaker, Theatererkrant Magazine, Ons Erfdeel, Boekman. Podcast maker, likes to experiment with new media. Culture Press is called the brainchild I gave birth to in 2009. Life partner of Suzanne Brink roommate of Edje, Fonzie and Rufus. Search and find me on Mastodon.View Author posts

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