Category Archives: your face this spring

YFTS: Immersion

(Wrapping up Your Face This Spring, we have a guest post from Neil Griffin, another prolific commenter. Here he articulates why he found the world of Your Face Tomorrow uncommonly absorbing.)

Like Scott guessed in a previous YFTS post, there were readers other than him who skipped ahead and read the book quicker than our planned time-line, and I was one of these book-club-rule-breaking offenders. I didn’t start cheating right away. The first few weeks I assumed that I would stick to the schedule, since I had eased into the book leisurely and enjoyed reading 50 or so pages a week and soaking in the consciousness of Deza in all its anxious and wise glory, and then exiting after the prescribed pages with no symptoms of withdrawal. I was even able to read other unrelated books in between assignments and then pick up from where I left off rather painlessly.

Then Tupra came into the story.

I threw the syllabus into the slow-moving river as soon as Deza was swept into Tupra’s world of shifting identities, translation, interpretation, fever, spears, and, ultimately, poison. There’s a section in the first book, when Deza describes his surveillance where I did indeed feel like I was under some feverish spell, from which I didn’t recover–if indeed I am recovered–until the final page of the third book.

So why did I enter this book so thoroughly?

When I tried to explain the book to my friends they thought me strange for being drawn into this world, which I articulated rather on the nose. In Fever and Spear, for example, I explained the plot, as follows: “There’s a Spaniard living in London who gets invited to a party, where he meets an interesting person, whom he eventually works for. He also finds a spot of blood on the stairs and speaks to his old mentor about the atmosphere during the great war.”

Cue looks of confusion and empty words: oh, sounds like an interesting read.

And my friends’ indifference makes sense on a plot level; there really isn’t much going on externally. But Marias makes the book stick to the reader by bringing up universal thoughts, worries, and anxieties through the medium of Deza’s mind. The thoughts colliding into one another create phenomenal images and wordplay that still circulate through my consciousness, even though I finished this two months ago: the ephemeral snow on shoulders, the slow river, the fever, the scratch, farewell my friends, the dancer, the bathroom of bare legs and brutal assaults, the sword, the murdered baby, baiting the man like a bull, Custardoy’s eyes, and the dormant silence always ready to erupt, while the shadow of the 1930s and 40s remains splattered in the present like the rim of blood, which is the hardest part to remove from my memory.

This is the best way I can articulate the magic of this book: through assorted fragments, gestures, thoughts, and insinuations that have been poured into my mind’s eye like an ecstatic poison.

YFTS: A Dance to the Music of Time

(We continue our reader responses to Your Face Tomorrow with Maylin Scott, who made quite a few comments during out read. Here she talks about the pivotal scene where Deza stands up and dances, and how it refracts throughout all three volumes of YFT.)

Dark Back of TImeHaving now finished Your Face Tomorrow (and read All Souls and Dark Back of Time for good measure–fascinating and complimentary reads both), I keep coming back to one pivotal section that seems to encapsulate many of the resonating thoughts and themes of the novel.

The scene takes place right in the middle of YFT (Volume II pages 185-201) which I don’t think is at all coincidental, and it is the one where Deza looks out his window at his neighbour dancing with the two women, then starts to dance himself, eventually realizing the trio are in turn observing him and copying his dance with the newspaper. They signal to Deza to join them and he, embarrassed, backs away. At first I was in the spell of how breathtakingly beautiful the image was–that section contains some of the best writing in the whole novel–but I think it serves a much more important narrative function. And it’s all to do with the fact that Deza refuses to join in the dance.

As the novel progressed, I’m sure I wasn’t the only reader frustrated (but still intrigued) by Deza’s character–his brooding aloofness and apathy, both in his initial response Continue Reading

YFTS: To Peter Wheeler who may know better

(I’ve asked some of the participants in Your Face This Spring to share some final thoughts about the book to help us wind this project up. First up is Ginny Brewer Pennekamp with some excellent thoughts on the Bond angle to Your Face Tomorrow.)

james bondI began Your Face Tomorrow aware that Javier Marias wrote this book for his heroes–Peter Russell and his father Julian–who taught Marias how to live life but were on the verge of leaving it. Mid-read, John Wooden died, adding a personal shade to this UCLA Bruin’s read. I wondered: what will happen to his teachings? How will the world change? Have we lost a compass on how to make our way in the world?

As I thought about this, I kept coming back to the very big hero looming over Deza’s strange adventure–James Bond. Bond is unequivocally a hero, the best spy ever, the man that saved the world over and over again. Yes, he specialized in incredible violence. Yes, he seduced every woman in his path. But the end justified his means. However, in YFT, James Bond is a hero of the past. The world has changed. MI6 is a different institution. To me, one of the essential themes in this novel is who becomes the James Bond of the modern world, how does he operate and with what responsibilities?

Deza is lured into MI6 by Bond. On the night of his qualification test, Deza finds Fleming’s inscription: “To Peter Wheeler, who may know better” and follows Wheeler where Wheeler followed Fleming, the man who invented Bond. Deza enters MI6 expecting Bond and Fleming’s world but instead is presented with three versions of the modern spy–Tupra, Wheeler, and his own father. Each provides Deza with a different set of choices about his place in the world and his responsibility towards his fellow man. Continue Reading

YFTS: Marias on Terrorism

In light of our ongoing discussion of history, politics, and terror in Your Face Tomorrow, I found this 2004 editorial by Marias very interesting. It was published in The New York Times just after the train terror bombing that many claimed “swung” the Spanish elections, an assertion that Marias clearly has no tolerance for:

After the March 11 train bombings in Madrid, the Spanish population immediately perceived two things clearly: First, that Prime Minister José María Aznar’s administration was indirectly responsible for the horror, which would not have occurred if Mr. Aznar had not been so eager to promote his alliance with Tony Blair and George Bush. Second, that his administration had lied about the probable authorship of the attacks – or concealed or delayed the truth, which under such tragic circumstances amounts to the same thing – for political advantage. The problem with such “perceptions” is that, accurate or erroneous, true or false, there’s no way to uproot them from people’s minds. Such convictions are of little use in the eyes of the law, but they are useful when it comes to deciding whom to vote for in a general election. That, and nothing but that, was what happened in Spain.

Marias also goes on to inform citizens of the U.S. that the war on terror isn’t really a war. An obvious point, but perhaps one that still needed (and needs) to be made. At any rate, I can understand where Marias is coming from. Anyone who reads his evocation of the nastier aspects of the wars of the ’30s and ’40s in Your Face Tomorrow will comprehend why he loses his patience with people who would compare our current “war footing” to that of Britain and Spain:

Here in Spain, we don’t feel as if we are at war, because we aren’t. And neither are the inhabitants of the United States, however vociferously many Americans may insist that they are. War is something else entirely. No semi-normal life can be led while a war is going on. The Madrilenians who lived through the siege of their city from 1936 to 1939 know that very well. The survivors of the daily bombardments of London during the Second World War know it, too. And those Americans who participated in that war know it also.

The editorial is a little dated at this point (no one beyond some diehard Glenn Beck fans and Jonah Goldberg still believes we were or are “at war” in a conventional sense, do they?), but it does provide an interesting window into where Marias’ head was at in the middle of writing Your Face Tomorrow.

YFTS: A Confession, Deza's Descent, and Shadow

I must begin this with a confession: as I suspect many of you have already, I went drastically ahead of schedule in my YFTS reading. It’s a testament to Marias’ abilities as a storyteller that after 1,000 pages of this book Volume 3 has me more hooked than ever (and that’s saying something, as YFT is certainly not a book that flagged for me very often). I do have some critiques of this book, but I will say that more than anything I’ve read lately, YFT has satisfied hugely on the level of plot, something I seem to be finding less and less often in literary fiction.

But anyway, onto the blogging! Though I’m ahead and will likely finish before the week of July 11, I’m going to continue blogging the read up through that week as though I weren’t. And I should preface all of these final posts with the fact that I have very mixed opinions about divulging any spoilers for these last couple hundred pages, given that the plot is so ripe, and I hate to spoil a good plot for any reader.

I’m curious to know people’s opinions on why Marias has chosen to label this segment “shadow.” It’s an odd choice for a section that takes place during Deza’s return to his home country, a place he has been pining for throughout YTF and which one would think would inspire a noun with more presence than shadow. Yet his opinion on Madrid and his life there is very ambiguous. At one point he says that two weeks is a good amount of time to be home, since after seeing his kids and friends he wouldn’t know what to do with himself. That’s certainly not how I felt upon returning to my hometown after two years in foreign countries. And Deza seems to be at a distance from all the people and things he comes back to. His father in particular seems worthy of the word shadow Continue Reading

YFTS: Turning Points

The first thing I’d like to remark about on our current section of Your Face Tomorrow (we’re in Week 13) is this was the first moment in the book where I distinctly felt that Deza’s “fever” had ended. In fact, I can pinpoint the exact line where this happened.

Deza’s fever, as he refers to it again and again (and again), of course begins with his whole entry into Tupra’s team of interpreters; in fact, maybe the first onset of the fever is at Wheeler’s party, where he comes across two of the odd characters that we will see so much more of in this book: Tupra and Rafita. This initiates the whole series of activities and relationships Deza enters into, which, in my reading, culminates Continue Reading

YFTS: A Pestilence: Notes on the Reading for Week 12

(Hey everyone–I’ve asked Richard Hutzler (known to us all in the YFTS comments threads as “RJH (formerly Richard)”) to do a guest-post for week 12‘s reading of Your Face Tomorrow. Big thanks to Richard for some awesome thoughts, and I hope to be able to add a few of my own before the week is out as we pull into the last 350 pages of this mammoth read.)

I’m excited to have this chance to write a post for Week 12’s reading, and just want to begin by thanking Scott for putting this group read together. It’s been tremendously fun. And so now we come to the root of the title of this section: “Poison.” I found so much of weight in these 57 pages that I will go through a few of them in mini-chapters.

Co-Fornication (or Faces, or The Beast With One Back)
Deza’s rumination upon ge-bryd-guma, or co-fornication, was both disturbing and fascinating Continue Reading

YFTS: Some Thoughts on Finishing Volume 2 of Your Face Tomorrow by Javier Marias

Depending on your point of view, the opening scene to volume 2 of Your Face Tomorrow is arguably a red herring: the scene involves Deza and his former wife Luisa (the only one so far, I believe, in which we actually see these estranged lovers together), plus a gypsy woman whom Luisa gives help to once by granting a seemingly minor request that in fact turns out to be hugely significant: she buys a cake for the son of this destitute woman.

Plotwise, the story has nothing to do with what has happened in volume 1 and what will happen in volume 2; yet themewise, to see its relevance we need look no further than the book’s opening words: “Let us hope that no one ever asks us for anything . . .”

At first this must seem a great advance over volume 1, which began with an admonition to never say anything at all to anybody–now the narrator is only admonishing against one small part of conversation. But really, how much of a step forward is this? Continue Reading

YFTS: Cleaning House

Time permitting, I’m going to do a summary post of vol 2 the way I did one for vol 1, but for now I’d like to add a few more thoughts that I didn’t get into the earlier post about our final slice of vol 2.

On page 288, I found it very noteworthy that Deza draws a comparison to Wheeler when Tupra gives him his comb back: Continue Reading

YFTS: The Redemption of Sympathy

So now that we’ve all finished vol 2 (or will have finished it soon), I’d like to ask everyone to weigh in on Tupra (or Reresby–and here’s a question to start off: Did anyone notice any rhyme or reason to how Deza applied each of those monikers throughout vol 2? I’m not sure I did.)

But anyway: Tupra. In my reading, the point of Deza recalling that awful story his father told him about Ronda–where the fascists baited a man like a bull as they murdered him for sport–the point of that was to draw a comparison between Tupra’s actions in the restroom to what those fascists did to their prisoner. And I would say that, even despite the wide gulf between Tupra and a fascist lackey, the comparison is not altogether invalid. I came into that scene wanting to see Rafita get what was coming to him, yet I came out of that scene wishing he hadn’t gotten what Tupra gave him.

And I think this is a crux of this book. Clearly this incident has stayed with Deza–perhaps it is that drop of blood that he cannot wipe away–clearly, Deza has lost faith in this enterprise in a very real and meaningful way. Do you find that valid? Continue Reading

The Latin American Mixtape

5 essays. 2 interviews.

All in all, over 25,000 words of Latin American literary goodness.

3 never-before-published essays, including “The Digression”—a 4,000-word piece on the most important digression in César Aira’s career.

Shop though these links = Support this site

Copyright © 2015. Powered by WordPress & Romangie Theme.