por Javier Marías
La pregunta del día hiza por el lector desinteresado: ¿es que Javier Marías realmente necesitó todas las 1.332 páginas de Tu rostro mañana para contar la historia? A lo que yo diría: sí, ¿Marías no podía compartir al menos 200 páginas más? Me encantó la experiencia de leer este libro y en sumergirme en el brillo de sus digressiones narrativas hasta el punto de que sufrí una versión libresca de la depresión postparto cuando llegué al fin. Qué librazo. Sin querer revelar demasiado, digamos que el Veneno y sombra y adiós del tercer y último volumen se enfrenta con al menos tres temas grandes--nuestra incapacidad para verdaderamente conocer la gente en el círculo más interior de familiares y amigos íntimos; la fuerza imprevisiblemente transformacional de la violencia, incluso cuando aplicada a las "causas justas" como la llamada guerra sobre el terrorismo y la lucha contra el fascismo en la Segunda Guerra Mundial; y, finalmente, nuestra incapacidad para saber cómo nosotros mismos reaccionaríamos frente al trauma o a la pérdida o al mal en el futuro--mientras que evita dando respuestas superficiales y se narra por medio de monólogos interiores, la narracón tradicional, y más monólogos interiores de manera hipnótica. Dado que mis compañeros Amateur Reader y Rise ya han escrito sobre la confiabilidad o la falta de confiabilidad del parlanchín Jacques Deza como un narrador y de cómo Tu rostro mañana se sitúa dentro de las obras completas de Marías, voy a limitarme a mencionar tres cosas sin orden ni concierto que se destacaron para mí en el volumen final de esta híbrida idiosincrática de novela de espionaje y historia sentimental. Primero, para un texto que es esencialmente una elegía en prosa, me gustó el efecto de claroscuro ocasionado por el humor alegre de Marías. ¿Esa escena donde el saco de arena humano y patán De la Garza pone a prueba su talento como un cantante de rap a la embajada española en Londres frente al famoso especialista del Siglo de Oro Francisco Rico? ¡Un clásico de la comedia! En segundo lugar, ¿qué puedo decir sobre la maestría de Marías en cuanto a la creación de personajes de carne y hueso además de don Francisco Rico? Dentro de una obra en cual dos atentados brutales tienen lugar en primer plano, en cual Deza tiene que mirar el equivalente a snuff films grabadas en vídeo desde la guerra sobre el terrorismo, y en cual recuerdos perturbadores sobre las peores infamias de la lucha contra Franco y Hitler más y más son el centro de atención, un par de mis escenas preferidas tuvieron que ver con los momentos calladas y sutíles donde una mano sobre el hombro del padre de Deza y la ausencia de una mano sobre el hombro de su amigo Wheeler explican todo sobre el cariño que el narrador tiene por estos dos hombres que están acercando a la muerte. Una escritura con alma, te digo. Por último, nunca me cansé de pasar tiempo con Deza y los otros personajes y sus historias inacabables. Me gustaron sus pensamientos, sus anécdotas, y el estilo de narración (como un trance) donde todo empezaría con una conversación, seguiría con un recuerdo, continuaría con una escena retrospectiva, y etcétera hasta que el hilo origina reaparecería párrafos, páginas, e incluso capítulos enteros más tarde. En resumen, la única queja que tengo en lo que refiere a esta novela es que se acabó tan temprano. Eso se remedia leyendo el nuevo Los enamoramientos en el mes que viene. (www.debolsillo.com)
by Javier Marías [translated from the Spanish by Margaret Jull Costa]
The casual reader might well wonder: did Javier Marías really need 1,332 pages to tell Your Face Tomorrow? To which I might casually reply: I agree, couldn't he have given us just a couple of hundred pages more? Loved, loved, loved reading this thing in all its digressional glory, to the point that I actually went into a bit of a funk after finally finishing it. What a fantastic book. Without wanting to give too much away, let's say that Volume 3's Poison, Shadow, and Farewell takes on at least three big ticket items--our inability to truly know those closest to us, be they loved ones or dear friends; the unpredictably transformative power of violence, even when applied to a "good cause" as in the so-called war on terror or in the fight against fascism in World War II; and, finally, our inability to predict how we ourselves will respond to trauma or loss or evil when put to the test--all while avoiding easy answers and seamlessly transitioning from interior monologue to narrative and back again in a tour de force of real time narration. Since fellow readalongers Amateur Reader and Rise have already written insightfully snazzy posts on the voluble Jacques Deza's reliability or unreliability as a narrator and how Your Face Tomorrow fits into Marías' larger body of work, I'm going to limit my comments here to three rather random things that grabbed me about the final installment of this idiosyncratic spy novel/love story. First, for a text that's essentially an elegy in prose, I loved the chiaroscuro effect produced by Marías' playful sense of humor. That scene where loudmouthed beating victim/boor De la Garza tries his rap act out on real life Siglo de Oro expert Francisco Rico in the Spanish embassy in London? A comedy classic! Secondly, what can I say about Marías' range as a creator of flesh and blood characters not named Francisco Rico? In a work in which two brutal assaults presented in close-up, videotaped equivalents of snuff films from the war on terror, and disturbing memories of the worst infamies of a world at war against Franco and Hitler increasingly take center stage in the theater that's the narrator's mind, a couple of my favorite moments had to do with the quiet, understated backstage scenes where a touch on the shoulder of his father and the lack of a touch on the shoulder on his friend Wheeler say more about the depth of Deza's feelings for these two dying men than I'm usually privileged to witness in fiction. A very soulful piece of writing. Finally, I never tired of spending time with Deza or any of the other characters as their stories spilled out seemingly endlessly. Enjoyed all their thoughts, their anecdotes, and that trance-like narrative style in which a conversation would lead to a memory, a memory to a flashback, and on and on until the original point of departure would resurface paragraphs, pages, and even entire chapters later. In short, the only real complaint that I have about this work is that it wasn't long enough for me. Hope to remedy that with a reading of Marías' new Los enamoramientos next month. (www.ndpublishing.com)
Epilogue/Lost in Translation
Thanks to everybody who participated in the readalong and/or otherwise commented along the way. I loved the novel, had a great time reading all your posts on the work, and look forward to adding all the other readalong posts here sometime soon. Please note that in looking at the Margaret Jull Costa translation for Vol. 3 of Your Face Tomorrow (in the Chatto & Windus British hardback), I noticed that the epilogue material that's included in my Spanish edition is missing from the British one. Amateur Reader has confirmed that the epilogue is also missing from the MJC-translated U.S. New Directions edition as well. So what are you missing? The Epílogo in the Debolsillo paperback I read has a 5-page addendum signed off by Javier Marías called "Los intérpretes de vidas" [literally: "The Interpreters or Translators of Lives"] in which Marías revisits the theme of careless talk and the work of the Tupra and Wheeler group and their translations of people's lives over the years. I read it as a kind of standard but interesting postscript, but I probably should read it again. The really fun stuff comes in what follows, though: three three-to-five page reports on well-known celebrities that alternate between hilarity and viciousness. These include "Informe de Pérez-Nuix sobre Silvio Berlusconi (2002)" ["Pérez-Nuix's Report on Silvio Berlusconi (2002)"], "Informe de Rendel sobre Michael Caine (2002)" ["Rendel's Report on Michael Caine (2002)"], and "Informe de Tupra sobre Diana de Gales" (1996)" ["Tupra's Report on Diana of Wales (1996)"]. Anyone want to take a guess on the only celeb who receives a flattering "interpretation"?
Just when I think you couldn't possibly come up with better sentence length equivalents of bon mots, you come up with new ones! viz: "The casual reader might well wonder: did Javier Marías really need 1,332 pages to tell Your Face Tomorrow? To which I might casually reply: I agree, couldn't he have given us just a couple of hundred pages more?" I don't care what anyone says, even all the psychiatrists who would love to get their hands on you: you are the best blog writer ever!ResponderBorrar
You keep ratcheting this up my TBR, Richard. Well you and Rise! What a crazy post he wrote! (High flattery coming from me.)ResponderBorrar
Anyway, so glad this lived up to your expectations, and what you say about the humor and soulfulness in it have me eager for the day when my Spanish is sufficiently rehabilitated to try some Marías in the original.
Now I'm steamed, steamed I tell you. England has nonsensical libel laws, which I presume are the cause of the suppression of those "reports," but what excuse does New Directions have?ResponderBorrar
The best joke would be if the Bunga Bunga, I mean Berlusconi profile were the most flattering.
I agree that the comic bits were ace. Dark Back of Time is proportionally funnier - more funny parts were page, so to speak. Agree, too about the interest of the tribute to the author's real-life father and mentor.
Richard, would you recommend that a reader new to Marías start further back? With All Souls or something?
*Jill: "Even all the psychiatrists who would love to get their hands on you." Yes, I'd be quite the catch for science, wouldn't I? Always hiding out in my "niche of despair" lair out in the bookish wilds and all. Thanks, I think--it's nice to know I can always count on you for a heady mixture of flattery and venom, my friend!ResponderBorrar
*Emily: Thanks, I look forward to seeing your review of this some day--pretty certain that it will provide plenty for you sink your teeth into although I'm also aware that my increasing fanboy tendencies re: Marías may make me mildly untrustworthy in that regard. Rise's post, which has wowed everybody who's read it by all appearances, is for sure one of the unexpected side benefits of reading great books in such fine company.
*Amateur Reader: I don't know the story behind the "edit," but I can't see how New Directions could have any excuses in this matter either. Plus, their covers continue to be an eyesore to anyone over the age of 12. (Bunga Bunga comes in a two-way tie for last, by the way!) As for where I'd recommend somebody start with Marías, I think All Souls and Tomorrow in the Battle Think on Me are great points of departure for different reasons. I haven't read A Heart So White Yet, but Rise has vouched for that as has almost everybody else that I know of so that has to receive some consideration also. I think a certain type of reader will want to start with Your Face Tomorrow, though, and I wouldn't consider that a mistake either since I think somebody new to Melville, for example, should go straight for Moby-Dick rather than pussyfooting around with his shorter works (and no knock on those intended). Not sure it will prove to be my favorite or Marías' best among his catalog, but I wouldn't discourage anyone from tackling this big beast either. A tricky question: where would you start somebody out with him?
I couldn't agree more, Richard - I similarly bereft at "Your Face Tomorrow" finally coming to an end and could have stayed in its world for far longer. But wait! An epilogue? Is it available anywhere in English? The hilarity of the very idea of Perez-Nuix reporting on Berlusconi means I have to track this down...ResponderBorrar
(And for what it's worth, I've actually come to like the New Directions covers, at least compared to the boring Chatto & Windus images on the British edition I read).
Oops - that should be: I FELT similarly bereft...ResponderBorrar
'Soulful' -- I couldn't think of a better word to sing the soul of this book. And I never knew Prof. Francisco Rico is flesh and blood! A great play on real life once again, especially with such colorful character the professor inhabited in the book. A perfect antithesis to De la Garza.ResponderBorrar
On the censored epilogue: the publisher or translator should have explained the reason for this. I felt almost betrayed, to exaggerate, especially since, based on your description of its contents, it's the kind of writing to relish. But I couldn't help but also think that Marías gave his consent for withholding these pages. For what reason, it's hard to guess. In any case, the epilogue's title is a good riff on his delightful nonfiction, "Vidas escritas" ("Written Lives"). I do hope future editions will carry these pages. Made me think of "Epilogue for Monsters" in Nazi Literature.
Thanks again for this readalong, Richard. Another one for the books.
*Scott: Glad I wasn't alone in feeling bereft like that! Pérez-Nuix on Berlusconi is a complete hoot, so hopefully the three reports turn up for you somehow sometime soon. I don't know that I've seen any of those Chatto & Windus covers unless they include the one Rise took a picture with for Vol. 3, but if you like them LESS than the New Directions ones, I'm prob. not missing out too much, I guess (my library seems to carry a lot of the C&W books in hardcover but with the cover sleeves discarded--maybe there's a message there, ha!).ResponderBorrar
*Rise: The Professor Rico thing was a particular crack-up to me because I've read a handful of journal articles on Spanish medieval and Golden Age literature by him over the years without ever imagining that I'd run into him as a character in a novel (shades of Don Quixote)--while being subjected to De la Garza no less! Other than that, I feel bad that English readers have to miss out on the bonus material for some reason--it doesn't make or break the novel by any stretch of the imagination, but it's stuff that fans of the novel would def. enjoy. Anyway, thanks so much for joining us for this one--I'll have to ask you sometime what led you to "linger and delay" a la Deza from finishing part two to starting part three, but I'm so glad you did since you got to read along with us for the grand, soulful finale! :D
Your series of posts on this trilogy is really tempting me to reading these someday! I don't know if I'll be brave enough to attempt such a lengthy read in Spanish, but I have noticed that my recent Spanish reading ventures, even as limited as they've been, have really started to bring the Spanish back.ResponderBorrar
You know that I am fangirl to your fanboy here. Just started volume three and it feels like going home. Something here inexplicable to me - the ease with which I sink in to that narrative voice. My thoughts soon..ResponderBorrar
So we need to read whichever other JM novel features Custardoy, obviously, but I have to tell you that Dark Back of Time not only explains why Prof. Rico is in YFT, but why he has to suffer the indignity of de la Garza's rhymes (not that specifically, but some kind of indignity).ResponderBorrar
*Amanda: The novel would qualify as a lengthy read in any language, but it never felt that way to me--entertaining, intelligent and thought-provoking throughout. Glad to hear your Spanish language practice is paying off--maybe a shorter Marías like Todas las almas would be just the thing to spur you on to even greater heights!ResponderBorrar
*Fangirl: I like how you think! And I totally know what you mean about that narrative voice feeling like coming home--have felt that more and more throughout both this novel and the last Marías before that that I read. Anyway, hope the end of Vol. 3 stays rewarding for you all the way up to the very end.
*Amateur Reader: Just when I think Dark Back of Time couldn't possibly sound any more interesting, you have to throw in that tidbit about don Francisco Rico! Ok, so maybe I need to scrap all other plans and concentrate on an all-Marías month for October. Either that or maybe swap out Los enamoramientos for the "false novel" at least. Thanks for the juicy tidbit, though.
Thanks for the recommendation, Richard! I will add that to my list.ResponderBorrar
I've purposely kept myself away from your post until finishing at least one of my own, which I'm both proud and ashamed to say is finally up. There is lots more to come--this one gets at least a five- or six-post series by the end. I mean...WHEW. Huge. All-encompassing. Also just awesome. And yes, while I may have struggled to finish on time, I could do with another volume or five. Guess I'll just have to settle for all of Marías's other work.ResponderBorrar
Thanks again for hosting this and getting me to read the trilogy. One of those things where you know you should, you know it will be good, but damn. Haha it's been days and I'm still barely articulate!