viernes, 1 de julio de 2011

Tu rostro mañana. 1 Fiebre y lanza

Tu rostro mañana.  1 Fiebre y lanza (Debolsillo, 2010)
por Javier Marías
España, 2002

"¡Qué deshonra es para mí recordar tu nombre!  ¡O conocer tu rostro mañana!"
Shakespeare, Enrique IV, II, 2

Jacques Deza, recién regresado a Inglaterra después de pasar unos años en su España natal y separarse de su mujer, aprovecha de sus lazos con los alumni oxonienses para conseguir empleo con lo que parece ser un ramo del servicio secreto británico.  Salvo una o dos alusiones a Desde Rusia con amor, lo que sigue no tiene nada que ver con la novela de espionaje típica quizás esperada por algunos.  En lugar de eso, el ex profesor Deza (el narrador sin nombre de Todas las almas, de Marías, y aquí llamado o Jack o Jaime o Jacobo o Diego según el que habla y las circunstancias) lanza una interesantísima meditación introspectiva sobre las consecuencias de contar y de callar y, más especifícamente, la fuerza de palabras para traicionar a nosotros y a los demás: una meditación hiza más concreta a causa de los recuerdos de varios personajes acerca de la Guerra Civil Española y el bombardeo alemán de Gran Bretaña en los cuarenta en el pasado y la sombra del ataque contra las Torres Gemelas en el presente.  Como podía esperarse luego de leer las otras novelas impresionantes de Marías en este año, dos de los grandes placeres que se pueden encontrar dentro de Fiebre y lanza son ver el estilo a cámara lenta que él ha perfeccionado (Marías sobre Tristram Shandy, una obra traducida por él hace años: "Una de las cosas que aprendí de él es la utilización del tiempo, descubrí que un minuto puede durar ochenta páginas") y mirar el dominio del lenguaje del novelista como ofrece nuevas percepiones psicológicas con gran frecuencia a lo largo de la obra.  Aunque no voy a compartir la excelente frase larguísima de tres páginas que me rendió completamente paralizado de asombro (véase las páginas 50-53 de esta edición), lo siguiente es un muy buen ejemplo de cómo, a pesar de los asuntos de espionaje con Sr Tupra y la amistad con Sir Peter Wheeler y a pesar de los paralelos entre el padre del narrador dentro de la novela y el padre de Marías mismo en la realidad (ambos fueron encarcelados por los fascistas a causa de las mentiras de delatores en los primeros años de Franco), la sección Fiebre y lanza de la historia de Deza es una suerte de memento mori que está marcado por el amor y la pérdida del amor y los pensamientos del personaje en cuanto al fracaso de su matrimonio:

Quién sabe quién nos sustituye, sólo sabemos que se nos sustituye siempre, en todas las ocasiones y en todas las circunstancias y en cualquier desempeño, en el amor, la amistad, en el empleo y en la influencia, en la dominación, y en el odio que también acaba por cansarse de nosotros; en las casas en que habitamos y en las ciudades que nos consienten, en los teléfonos que nos persuaden o nos escuchan pacientes con la risa al oído o con un murmullo de asentimiento, en el juego y en el negocio, en las tiendas y en los despachos, en el paisaje infantil que creíamos sólo nuestro y en las agotadas calles de tanto ver marchitarse, en los restaurantes y en los paseos y en nuestras butacas y en nuestras sábanas, hasta que no queda olor en ellas ni ningún vestigio y se rasgan para hacer tiras o paños, y en nuestros besos se nos sustituye y se cierran al besar los ojos, en los recuerdos y en los pensamientos y en las ensoñaciones y en todas partes, sólo soy como nieve sobre los hombros, resbaladiza y mansa, y la nieve siempre para... (48)

Ese pasaje, mis amigos, ¿ese último pasaje arriba?  Me mata.  (www.debolsillo.com)

Your Face Tomorrow, Vol. 1: Fever and Spear  (New Directions, 2007)
by Javier Marías [translated from the Spanish by Margaret Jull Costa]
Spain, 2002

"What a disgrace is it to me to remember thy name, to know thy face tomorrow..."
Shakespeare, Henry IV, II, 2

Jacques Deza, back in England after several years away and a failed marriage in his native Spain, takes advantage of his old Oxford connections to land a job with what seems to be a shadow branch of the British secret service.  Give or take a sly From Russia with Love allusion or two, what follows has absolutely nothing to do with the typical spy novel that might be expected.  Instead, the former academic Deza (the unnamed narrator in Marías' earlier All Souls and here variously referred to as Jack or Jaime or Jacobo or Diego depending on the speaker and the circumstances) launches into an absorbing, introspective reflection on the consequences of the acts of telling and not telling and, more specifically, the power of words to betray us and others--a reflection made more tangible by various characters' recollections of events dating back to the Spanish Civil War and the Blitz and references to the Twin Towers attacks in the present.  As is only to be expected from the other impressive Marías novels I've read this year, two of the principal pleasures to be found in reading Fever and Spear are watching events unfold in the deliberate slow motion style that he's practically made his own (Marías on Tristram Shandy, which he translated into Spanish years ago: "One of the things I learned from it was the use of time; I discovered that one minute could last eighty pages") and beholding the novelist's extremely precise use of language while routinely offering up astute psychological insights that get under your skin.  While I'll have to spare you a sample of the awesome three-page long sentence that had me giddily transfixed when I tried to isolate a favorite quote from it for this post (see pages 33-36 if at all interested), here's a shorter passage that will give you another really good example of how, despite the spy business with Mr. Tupra or the warm friendship with Sir Peter Wheeler and despite the parallels between the narrator's father within the book and Marías' own father outside of it (both served time in fascist prisons in Franco's Spain on account of informers' lies), the Fever and Spear portion of Deza's story is a sort of memento mori haunted by love and loss and the intimations of mortality suggested by an everyday occurrence as unexceptional as thinking about the aftermath of his own broken marriage:

Who knows who will replace us, all we know is that we will be replaced, on all occasions and in all circumstances and in whatever we do, in love and friendship, as regards work, influence, domination, even hatred, which also wearies of us in the end; in the houses we live in and in the cities that receive us, in the telephones that persuade or patiently listen to us, laughing into our ear or murmuring agreement, at play and at work, in shops and offices, in the childhood landscape we thought was ours alone and in the streets exhausted from seeing so much decay, in restaurants and along avenues and in our armchairs and between our sheets, until no trace of our smell remains, and they are torn up to make strips or rags, even our kisses are replaced, and they close their eyes as they kiss, in memories and in thoughts and in daydreams and everywhere, I am like the snow on someone's shoulders, slippery and docile, and the snow always stops..." (31, translated by Margaret Jull Costa)

That, my friends, that passage right there?  Just slays me.  (www.ndpublishing.com)

Javier Marías

14 comentarios:

  1. Richard, have you read much Marías beyond what you have posted about? Is this a recent or an old enthusiasm?

    I ask because it's Dark Back of Time which is currently killing me, even more than Your Face Tomorrow.

    I read All Souls a long time ago - ten years, maybe - and that was more or less it for Marías. I can't remember why I stopped. Ignorance, I guess, woeful ignorance. I'll write about all of this next week. Thanks for the chance to catch up.

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  2. I, being older than you I'm sure, am reminded of these lyrics from a 1909 song:

    I wonder who's kissing her now,
    I wonder who's teaching her how,
    Wonder who's looking into her eyes,
    Breathing sighs, telling lies;
    I wonder who's buying the wine,
    For lips that I used to call mine.
    I wonder if she ever tells him of me,
    I wonder who's kissing her now.

    Not as poetic as the passage you cited, but not quite as depressing either.

    Richard, Richard, one day will you please climb out of your niche of despair into the light?!!! (although there is the fact that nicely wrought phrases of loss and mortality make you giddily transfixed...)

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  3. ¡Hola Richard!

    Javier Marías tiene una prosa exquisita. Las tramas de sus novelas pueden sintetizarse en un par de líneas, así que no es lo que verdaderamente importa al sumergirnos en sus páginas.
    En su momento disfruté de las tres partes de Tu rostro mañana y hace poco con su última novela: Los enamoramientos.

    Saludos,
    R.

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  4. And just like in Proust, the length of those sentences might not even occur to the reader so wrapped in the flow of that language until they step back for an objective view. A thought that also plays in beautifully with the themes of subjectivity and objectivity in the novel. Or thoughts of the possibility of the absolute. And my head is still swirling with 30 pages left to go. Getting there, friend. Love, love, love this.

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  5. Jill, from a 1909 song? Exactly how freakin' old are you, woman? Brewing a special elixir for yourself in your basement? :)

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  6. *Amateur Reader: Oddly enough, I guess I had a similar Marías experience to yours. Read The Man of Feeling several years ago for a Spanish class and enjoyed it and then didn't get around to any more Marías until this year for some reason. Hence, the Maríasmania is definitely new for me! Very excited to hear what you have to say about Dark Back of Time, esp. as I remember Rise raving about that in a comment not too long ago. Anyway, thanks for reading along with us--I'm very much looking forward to your post(s) on these works.

    *Jill: While you might not gather this from my post, which is deficient in many respects, there are many humorous aspects to Marías' writing which serve as emotional ballast to the more heavy-duty emotional moments I'm drawn to for various reasons (inc. their poetic qualities, naturally). So it's not quite a "niche of despair" I'm wallowing in unless you want that to be my niche blogging tag! Thanks for passing along the lyrics to that song, which works a similar trope to the Marías passage to be sure, but please see Frances' second comment for a variation on my question about what kind of "special Wikipedia" you have access to, ha ha. Cheers!

    R.: ¡Hola! y gracias por comentar. La de Marías es "una prosa exquisita" por cierto, y estoy anticipando los siguientes tomos en este libro con mucho entusiasmo. Desgraciadamente, tendré que esperar hasta el fin del mes antes de que puede comprar Los enamoramientos en EE.UU (no te preocupes, esa novela ya está en mi lista). ¡Saludos!

    *Frances: You're totally right about the length of the sentences and the seductive flow here, a perfect case in point being that I didn't even realize this one sentence was three-pages long until I went back to revisit a specific point in the middle of it and noticed it the second time around. How many other things like that did I miss? Anyway, really glad to hear you're enjoying this so much (esp. after your hectic end of the year with work stuff) and love your points about the way the prose and the subjectivity and the reflections on the absolute all fit together in some way. Very much looking forward to your post on this, of course, and thanks for the laughs re: your second comment to Jill--outstanding!

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  7. Richard, the quote you pulled is an envenomed spear. (Adjective from Dark Back of Time - total killer, I feel for Amateur Reader.) Thanks for recalling for me elements in this volume that makes it a singular experience. His early novels clearly pointed to the hardening of his style here.

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  8. I was counting on your post to convince me I made the right decision to wait on this 'til I can read it in Spanish, and you delivered. Man, that passage you pulled is fantastic and even better in the original. Time to dust off those Lorca plays, Borges shorts & La literatura nazi & start working up to this! Everyone is making it sound so excellent.

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  9. *Rise: You and Amateur Reader are killing me with all this Dark Back of Time talk. Have still got two volumes of Tu rostro mañana to get through. Corazón tan blanco. And Marías' new Los enamoramientos is set to be due out here (in Spanish only so far) at the end of the month. Where will I find time to read all that? Not that I'm complaining, ha ha. Anyway, thank you for accompanying us on this even though the final leg of the journey so to speak is all that awaits you re: the trilogy. An "envenomed spear," eh? I like that one. Cheers!

    *Emily: I'm glad I'm good for something at least, ha ha, but even though I'm psyched you'll be trying this in Spanish at some point, it would have been awesome to have your posting input on this big mofo of a book. R.'s comment about Marías' exquisite prose says it all, I think, but it will be fascinating to see where Marías goes with all this. And as for you, can hardly think of a more fascinating line-up to brush up your Spanish with than your projected Bolaño, Borges, Lorca, and Marías plan. Very exciting, methinks. ¡Saludos!

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  10. It's pretty rare that I read a living author these days and know that I'm going to have to read pretty much all their work at some point, but that has sure happened with Marías. This one is so good so far that I can barely handle all this talk of other novels being so much better.

    And I love that sentence you pulled. Totally had that one marked. And glad you noted the humor that's also throughout the book. It really is funny, and balanced in that way. Can't wait to pick up volume 2.

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  11. Well you guessed it - this one was the book that I loved out of my June reading. Like Nicole, I feel that I'll be seeking out the rest of Marias' work and it's such an exciting prospect! Your Face Tomorrow is totally enthralling at the moment - can't wait to read more.

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  12. *Nicole: Knowing that I can always count on you to speak out against those living writers who are so often weak when compared to their illustrious predecessors, I'm very happy and relieved to hear that Marías has made such a favorable impression on you with this book. Let's hope he keeps writing for a while more! The "funny, and balanced" point you make is one of the things that makes Marías' novels so appealing to me; he always seems emotionally honest to me, something that makes me appreciate his characters as more than just characters in a book, as with the portrayal of the friendship between Deza and Wheeler and the business relationship of Deza and Tupra in Fever and Spear. And that prose--wow!

    *Sarah: So glad you're digging this so far and that the trial run was a success for you and Marías, esp. after how you weren't into the Vargas Llosa earlier in the year. Redemption! If you continue to be enthralled with the Marías, you'll certainly have lots of works to dip into over time given his extensive back catalogue. Cheers!

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  13. Tomo nota, Richard, aunque sólo le he leído Mañana en la batalla piensa en mí, me parece que es un gran narrador.
    Me encantan esas temáticas introspectivas, además la de la Guerra Civil siempre me ha parecido muy interesante (las historias de la posguerra en especial).
    ¡Un saludo!!

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  14. *Andrómeda: Mañana en la batalla piensa en mí fue el libro que me hizo pensar: tendré que leer todos los libros de Marías en algún momento. Y dado tu interés en la Guerra Civil, te lo propongo que hay que leer Soldados de Salamina, escrito por el español Javier Cercas, sobre temas parecidos. De hecho, es otro librazo. ¡Saludos!

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