Nuria begins her narrative in 1933, when she’s working as a secretary for Toni Cabestany and meets Carax for the first time. Carax had published several novels in Paris, as the owner of the bar where he worked, Irene Marceau, was well-connected in the city. Because they sold so poorly, Cabestany acquired the rights for a small price and continued to print them in Spain even though they never succeeded. After reading Carax’s work herself, Nuria is astonished that they never sold.
Nuria’s introduction to Carax and his work is similar to that of many other characters. She discovers Carax by chance as an unknown writer, and feels that his novels are brilliant despite their lack of success, just as do characters like Clara and Daniel himself.
Nuria is also puzzled that the same person, using different aliases, calls every few weeks to ask for Carax’s address. Assuming him to be up to no good, Nuria never gives it and eventually removes any record of the address from the publisher’s files.
Although she doesn’t know Carax yet, Nuria feels an implicit loyalty to him because of her connection to his books, enough to take illicit action on his behalf. Similarly, Daniel went to extraordinary lengths to investigate Carax’s past without any tangible reason.
While working on Cabestany’s accounting, Nuria discovers that the unprofitable editions of Carax’s books are financed completely by someone named Miquel Moliner, and that Cabestany is charging Moliner significantly more than it cost to print the books. One day Nuria visits Moliner to warn him he’s being swindled, but Moliner is unperturbed. He lives “a monastic existence” in his old family mansion and spends his time writing newspaper articles.
Despite the fact that she’s a secretary with little power, Nuria’s honesty and integrity differentiate her from her bosses. Here, she appears very similar to Daniel when he refused to part with his copy of Carax’s novel despite pressure from powerful adults to do so.
Nuria and Miquel quickly become friends, sharing their interest in books, music, and the enigmatic Carax. Miquel tells Nuria everything about their shared childhood experiences. Eventually, Miquel confesses his love to Nuria, and she has to tell him that she doesn’t reciprocate his feelings. Miquel says that she’s in love with Carax, but she “doesn’t know yet.”
Nuria’s potential love for Carax is remarkable, considering that she’s never actually met him and only knows him through his work. Her fascination is a testament to literature’s ability elicit strong emotions, and to facilitate deep connections even between people who don’t know each other in real life.
In the summer, Cabestany sends Nuria to Paris on business, where she meets Carax, who lets her stay in his spartan garret apartment. He tells her many fantastic stories about the mysteries of Paris and urges her to stay longer to explore the city. He even hires the young son of one of his friends to guide her around the city. Nuria asks Carax about the identity of “P,” to whom he dedicates all his books, and Carax tells her that Penélope is the only woman he’s ever loved.
Carax is remarkably kind and hospitable despite his limited resources, suggesting that he too is affected by the bond Nuria has formed through his novels – or at least by her evident fascination with him. However, his refusal to part with the idea of Penélope shows the extent to which he’s living in his past, rather than moving into the future.
Carax also tells Nuria about his life in Paris. In 1921, homeless and ill on the streets, he met Irene Marceau. She owned a brothel and took him home to recover there, eventually hiring him as a pianist. She also encouraged him to keep writing and found him a publisher for his novels.
Just like Fermín, Carax doesn’t fit easily into mainstream society but thrives best in Paris’s seedy underbelly. By linking him to one of the novel’s most positive characters, this characteristic establishes him as sympathetic as well.
After talking to her all night about his lonely night, Carax and Nuria finally have sex. She spends two weeks in Paris as his lover, but knows he will never love her the way he loves Penélope. Meanwhile, she’s sure she’ll never love another man as she loves him.
Nuria’s stark claims about her relationship with Julian show that she considers both of their lives determined by a static destiny, unable to change and not subject to human action or desires.
Carax covets a fountain pen he sees in a pawnshop, which is said to have belonged to Victor Hugo. Nuria secretly buys it for him out of her meager savings. That night, she leaves without saying goodbye, placing the pen on his typewriter and knowing that “the best part of my life was already behind me.”
Daniel and Carax both covet and eventually own the same fountain pen, which strengthens the link between them even further. Moreover, the repeated appearance of the pen is another unbelievable coincidence suggesting that their lives were meant to intertwine, rather than doing so only by chance.