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? So we may speak to one another, but only if we deny ourselves the very human–perhaps instinctual–act of attempting to build a relationship with the person that we speak to.

As the opening pages of volume 2 indicate, relationships and indebtedness will be the sign by which this second book of Your Face Tomorrow navigates. Perez Nuix will embark upon a lengthy, personal night with Deza for the sake of asking him a favor (a favor that, as it turns out, involves debts). Tupra will recruit Deza as an assistant on a horrific evening that will forever alter the nature of their relationship. The tectonic plates beneath the surface of this story are shifting, all for the sake of favors.

These are all very fitting developments for the second book, the hinge book of a trilogy. As one might say of the spy thrillers that Your Face Tomorrow owes so much to, the plot thickens. Now that Marias has laid out the history and particulars of Deza’s situation, he is grating his creations authority to operate within these parameters they please. His characters are taking on life.

And indeed, Deza is having interesting thoughts. As early as page 82–before any swords or beatings or hairnet nooses–Deza will compare his boss to Iago and find the former a touch more sinister:

Tupra would never have to think or say or propose to himself the very ugly words spoken by the Moor’s standard-bearer: “I’ll pour this pestilence in his ear,” because he persuaded purely by dint of persuasion and would rarely hatch any plot based on false information or lies, or so it seemed to me: his reasonings reasoned, his enthusaisms enthused and his dissuasions really did dissuade, and he needed nothing more . . .

I would argue that here Tupra comes off worse than Iago, for the latter must resort to blasphemies to get his way, whereas Tupra is a shade smarter: a man disciplined enough to only hatch plots based on facts he can verify, yet a man who, as well shall see, seems able to bend facts toward whatever action he wishes to justify.

Volume 2, then, is the story of Deza’s descent into the heart of darkness, into Tupra-cum-Iago’s thicket of justifications, and indeed this volume is much darker than the first. We see hints that the British intelligence agency known as the MI6–which Deza, Tupra, and the others work for–is doing the bidding of the Italian gangsters known as the Camorra (83). We have a lengthy digression regarding Judgment Day, starting at page 121 and ending around 135, to my eyes the blackest, most implacably hopeless stretch I’ve yet read in this book. In this stretch we see–again and again and again–victims confronting their executioners in some durationless afterlife massing of all the dead before a judging God, accusations and accusations without end, but scarcely any sort of a reply. And then, of course, there is Tupra’s masochistic beating, described in quite a bit of detail, a form of judgement in and of itself.

Yet though there is much judging in volume 2, at times it directly questions the very worth of judgment. Deza recalls–yet again–that his father was against judging or avenging himself on Del Real, the man who falsely imprisoned him during the fascist era in Spain. “It would have given him a sort of a posteriori justification, a false validation, an anachronistic motive for his action.” (130) Again the matter of “biographical dread” is raised, the issue of ruining an entire well-lived life for one final error that–in history’s judgment–effaces the whole of your life so that humanity’s remembers you only for your death. And on page 128 it is even implied that Christian idea of a God meting our judgment to evildoers is merely a sop to the weak. In effect, these voices say that there is a more honorable form of life that does not concern itself with judgment.

But then amidst all this heaviness of beating and judgment and history there is the lightness of dream. Having spent two years living in countries other than that which I was born in, I found much to empathize with in Deza’s statement

I still had the illusory feeling that this other country was just a parenthesis, that my second sojourn in England was a life not entirely lived, a life that does not really matter and for which I was barely responsible, or when the time came to hold that ever more improbable dance–it has doubtless been abolished now, cancelled until further notice or, more likely, until further belief–a time that is no longer time or is frozen and motionless. [148]

In that sentence Deza talks about a dance that one day he may be involved in, a dance that he cannot take up until he wakes from this dream that is in England. In one of the book’s best digressions, starting on page 92, Deza again takes up the dreamlike life of the expatriot, riffing on dream and life abroad alike:

Any idea that emerges from the dream-world is often dismissed or invalidated for that very reason, because of its dark, uncertain provenance, because such ideas seem to emerge out of a dream smokescreen, but do not always disappear once consciousness returns . . . [92]

But then after establishing the dream-like life he lives in England, and after claiming he may never return to life’s dance, Deza in fact does dance–with a newspaper, yes, but a dance nonetheless–on an evening after he has become implicated in a brutal beating that seems to defy his insistence that England is but a dream for him. Are the facts of the world he lives in pulling him out of his dream? It is perhaps that now Deza is beginning to accept responsibility for this life he leads, that after witnessing the beating of a stupid but unjustly punished man he has taken to heart the fact that he cannot merely stand by and let history take its course. I wonder, though, that given all the horror and tyranny that we have been reminded of in volumes 1 and 2 whether Marias will permit his stand to be more than symbolic, more than an addressing of his conscious.

We should stop here to appreciate Marias’ elaborate structuring, how he dances back and forth between the dramatic night at the disco and the ensuing conversation with Tupra that clearly indicates a turning point for Deza and the evening a few days hence where Deza is still dealing with the fallout from these events that Marias continues to unfurl and unfurl before us (right up and into the third book). And there is another strand from volume 2 that will continue in 3: Perez Nuix’s request, a request that is being made, I believe, on an evening that Marias has not specified and that may perhaps come to play a significant role in this saga that Marias is unwinding for us.

One looks forward to volume 3 wanting to know many things: which father-figure will end up leading the way for Deza’s future, Tupra or Wheeler? What will be Marias’ final judgment be on this contemporary era that he counterpoints again and again to various bloody, totalitarian moments from Europe’s history? Which woman till Deza end this book with? Will Rafita ever be heard from again after being beat to within an inch of his life? And what of Perez Nuix’s request that we already know Deza will grant–will it spell his ouster from England and from this dream life, or will it lead him to finally make of England the life he has thus far denied it?


Recent Posts



Criticism Isn't Free


CR is dedicated to thoughtful, in-depth criticism without regard to what's commercially appealing. It takes tens of hours each month to provide this. Please help make this sort of writing sustainable, either with a subscription or a one-time donation. Thank you!





Got Something To Say:

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

Shop though these links = Support this site

Copyright © 2015. Powered by WordPress & Romangie Theme.