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13 April 2011

Your Face Tomorrow

Because I'm a man, I have to name someone as my favourite living novelist, a successor to Jose Saramago. It might just be Javier Marías, or this might be because I've just finished the 1500 page novel in three volumes, Your Face Tomorrow, and feel it deserves some kind of recognition.

It's a very odd book, unbelievably slow-paced for the most part. In part 2, the main character's boss, Tupra, tells him to go and find someone, without delay. Twenty pages later, after a lot of reflection on what "without delay" might mean, connote, imply, involve, require, or feel like, what memories it provokes, what memories it will bequeath to the future, on how the concept of delay may be different in Spanish and in English, and on previous occasions where the leading character, Deza, using the different versions of his first name - Jacobo, Iago, Jaime - as the situation seemed to require or demand, according to whether he was dealing with his wife, Luisa, still in Madrid, from whom the separation is a cause of grief and unresolved longing, or with his colleague, young Perex Nuix, half-Spanish, whose request for a favour we are still waiting to understand, Deza goes in search of the missing woman.

But despite that it's compelling writing. Marías handles really long sentences much better than my clumsy parody suggests. And the translation is by the brilliant Margaret Jull Costa, so she too keeps them intelligible and enjoyable. Through the third volume, it occured to me that the impression the translation gives is that the book was written to be translated into English: English is where it belongs. Marías is fluent in English, and his character, Deza, is superficially similar to himself, a Spanish exile in London, and so there is a lot of explicit reflection on the way words slip their meanings in translation. I'd be interested to see how many separate words there are in the book - how big its lexicon is. It seemed huge.

I'm not going to recommend the book. Some people, probably most, will hate it because of the pace. If you want to try a book by Marías, try Tomorrow in the battle think on me.

1 comment:

schultzie said...

I haven't managed to get around to reading Your Face Tomorrow but I highly recommend Marias' A Heart So White and All Souls, both a lot shorter and captivating from the first page.