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YFTS: The Redemtion 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? Did you too lose faith–or maybe respect is a better word–in Tupra after that sadistic lashing? And is Deza’s clear sympathizing with Rafita–a man he has only contempt for–a sign of his humanity, and perhaps his redemption from this nasty business he’s been pulled into?

Or is Deza not redeemed? Throughout this long book we’ve met with countless instances of people either being complicit with evil or doing nothing to stop it, always with the feeling (at least on my part) that Deza condemns those who participated and believes he would have done differently. But now perhaps we can say that he has joined them. I’m not sure, though, and the answer will rest i part on what happens in this long conversation that between Tupra and Deza that is cut off a the end of vol 2.

A criticism: I found the last chunk of vol 2 unnecessarily slow. Throughout Your Face Tomorrow, Marias has clearly been an author who tends toward more words than less, yet it was never quite so intrusive as it was in the final pages of this book. I just found the sentences too overrun with clauses that seemed to serve no real purpose, and then the paragraphs too overrun with sentences that more or less said the same thing as the one before. For instance, this fragment of from when Deza imagines Tupra is interrogating him after the beating:

Perhaps we should start by asking why he took the sword out in the first place. It was melodramatic and unnecessary and, in the end, he didn’t even use it, except to cut off the hairnet and frighten his victim half to death, and the witness too, of course. One has to ask oneself whether he brandished that sword purely so that I would see it and feel alarmed and shocked, as indeed I did, or, I don’t know, so that I would believe he was capable of actually killing, without giving it a second thought, in the most brutal manner and for no reason. . . .

First an observation: how interesting that Deza parses this shocking and horrible experience by turning to the man who was responsible for it (it’s as though Deza has had his mind infected by this man! Can he understand his world in no way other than to filter it thought Turpa’s questions?). But as to this chunk, I see no need for “and unnecessary” after “melodramatic,” nor any need to recapitulate what happened with the sword (we just read it). That big first clause in the second sentence could lose a number of words, in fact that whole second sentence has a lot that feels extraneous.

And so on, for pages and pages. For me, this typified the reading experience of these last 50 pages or so, and bloat has been something I’ve been keeping an eye out for throughout the book (you can’t not when dealing with something well over 1,000 pages). So I would like to know if people felt the book was slowing down a bit too much.

One last thing: It looks like Terry from Vertigo–which I know as “the Sebald blog”–has joined us.

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  1. YFTS: The Hardest Part About Fictions Is Not Creating But Maintaining Them A couple of things I wanted to point out from the first 20 or so pages of the segment of Fever and Spear that we're...
  2. YFTS: And Now We Venture Into the Ladies' Room, and Into the Mind of a Vengeful God I'm sure everyone was very tickled by the restroom scene--I know I was. In a very broad sort of way, this scene made the book...
  3. YFTS: The Perils of Dancing So a few more comments about last week's section, pp. 122 - 201. I'd like to draw everyone's attention to page 194, which I think...
  4. YFTS: Favors, and The Return of the Socks (!) For those of you who remain with me, we are now just beginning "Dance," the first section of volume 2 of Javier Marias' long book...
  5. YFTS: Some Thoughts on the First 90 Pages of Your Face Tomorrow and the Perils of Talking Now that we've gotten our feet wet with the first 90 pages or so of Your Face Tomorrow, some initial thoughts. For those who aren't...

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5 comments to YFTS: The Redemption of Sympathy

  • Drew

    Scott, very happy to see you mentioned the bloat. There is a section late on in Volume II where Deza imagines Tupra questioning Deza with regard to Reresby’s character which I found, disenchanting to say the least. I have read a good amount of Marias, and this was the first section of his where I was unable to give him the benefit of the doubt on how he framed this. Almost as if he is doing the reader’s work for him or her, which is not like Marias at all. Felt forced, or rather, as though he’d boxed himself in.

    I have a suspicion that the last part of this Volume is where Marias was about to throw up his hands and claim defeat. If anyone knows exactly at what point Marias thought about not finishing the novel, I would like to stand corrected.

    Also, the ending of Volume II really sets in relief this is a novel in three parts, don’t you think? Felt more like a chapter break than a Volume break (unlike the break between Volumes I and II).

  • Drew: I agree. I made a good, honest effort to give Marias the benefit for his extreme prolixity toward the end of this volume, but I just couldn’t see that so much needless repetition was justified. Seems that a courageous editor should have stepped up and made him trim it back.

    As to your other remark, vol 2 really felt like a “middle” volume to me. Seems that the middle piece in a trilogy is always hard, as you want it to feel like a complete work in and of itself, but there’s also the need to keep the momentum up. Vol 2, if I’m not mistaken, takes place over the course of just a few days, most of it over the course of one night the the following two days, which is extremely compressed when compared to vol 1. Also, it was more of an elaboration of themes than an introduction of new paths, etc. So yes, it did feel smaller in comparison, more like a chapter than a book, although perhaps necessarily (?).

  • Ginny

    Wow, I felt the same way as everything else here so far. The tail end of this volume was definitely slow to say the least. Thick and repetitive more specifically. I liked the passage Scott picked to illustrate this above — I think I was attributing part of the bloat to Deza losing his mind and, in something like a state of shock, being unable to process his thoughts in a linear fashion, so that we saw a bit of his inner unraveling for the first time.

    I also loved the insight “perhaps it is that drop of blood that he cannot wipe away” given my impatience to find a necessary symbolism in this blood motif. Simple, yet amusing in the way it translates Macbeth through Deza’s chauvinistic mind.

    I have hope that Deza is developing a conscience and is starting to want to wake up from this dream. That plus the feeling that I need to erase the slow, stickiness of this last set of pages will get me diving in to Vol. 3 this weekend…

  • RJH (formerly Richard)

    I suppose I shall be the first to differ with the general opinion here…Not only did Vol II feel completely bloatless to me, not only did it not feel like a typical “middle volume” (and will I get all geeky and ridiculous here and point out that The Empire Strikes Back has always been and still remains my favorite of the first Star Wars trilogy? Yes, I guess I will), I felt it actually read too quickly–I was so taken up with everything, including the section everyone seems to have been so annoyed or bored by or disbelieving of, that as I mentioned a few posts back, I finished it rather quickly and have had to wait, filling my waiting with readings of All Souls, Dark Back of Time, and a reread of A Heart So White…

    The fact that Deza interrogates his own feelings about and reactions to Tupra/Reresby after the near-beheading and torturing of De La Garza by imagining said Tupra (NOT Reresby) interrogating him about his reactions to Reresby and his actions/behavior/intentions (Tupra/Reresby or Reresby/Tupra, or just Reresby, this man with the Landsknecht or Katzbalger stuffed in his…coat! [And come on, this is also funny, horrifying, yes, but freaking hilarious, no? I mean funny in that way that David Lynch can be funny, where you laugh out loud at the pure absurdity of it before choking on your laughter]) seems not only perfectly in keeping with Deza’s character to me, it makes literal and symbolic sense. I think we’ve seen Deza become enchanted by the obviously dangerous Tupra (obviously dangerous from his first appearance in Vol I–look back at Deza’s reaction to him, look back at the subtle, almost subtextual vibrations of danger that thrum beneath that entire volume), but also repelled by his enchantment as he learns more and more–not only about the group’s actions and murky intentions (or lack thereof), but also about himself and his own capacity for being attracted to violence. Look back at the vehemence, the pure verbal and mental and even, I might argue, spiritual violence of Deza’s reactions to and feelings about De La Garza…he stops short at drawing a sword upon the poor man, but from the ridiculous vehemence of his name-calling (“the dickhead”) to his vituperous thoughts about De La Garza and his appearance, actions, thoughts, his very being…he stops short at drawing a sword upon him himself, yes, but he almost hits him out on the dance floor, even at the very beginning at De La Garza’s first appearance…and, and, AND: he is beginning to torment himself about the fact that he DID NOTHING to stop Tupra/Reresby–was it out of his own fear that Reresby/Tupra would turn the sword upon him? How different was this scene from the description of the flogging he described earlier, really? How culpable is Deza here? And yet, he is still, quite obviously, enchanted by Tupra/Reresby/Whoever He Really Is (and I mean enchanted not in a romantic or light sense or charmed sense as you would be by an attractive woman or a delightful dinner guest, but ENCHANTED, as in the sense of hypnotized, mesmerized, and also held in the thrall of by fear and excitement and doubt etc…), so the fact that he imagines Tupra (not Reresby) interrogating him about his reactions to/thoughts about/impressions of Rereseby/Tupra, again, makes more than perfect sense to me. (Sorry for the Tupra/Reresby Reresby/Tupra play here, but it’s not really play–the doubleness of all the characters, the importance of names, the doubling/tripling/multiplying of names, fake names, assumed names, noms de guerre and noms de plumes, is truly fascinating to me–here and in All Souls and Dark Back of Time–he’s obsessed with this, our Marias is, and for I suspect good and profound reasons)…

    I wonder if the digression in the car–which, to me at least, was not a digression at all–seemed so frustrating to some because it came so immediately upon the sickeningly thrilling sword scene? The momentum built almost to crisis, and then perhaps it seemed to some of you to dissipate or dissolve into this imagined interrogation. I read it as pure fear/terror/worry/doubt on Deza’s part, but he’s struggling with those feelings, and wants an “explanation”…This scene following the sword-wielding, the entire trip in the car, only ratcheted the tension up even tighter to me, and hence my utter restlessness at the prospect of jumping into Vol III…

    And, re: that blood stain: I would be heartily, verily, completely and totally surprised if we ever get an “explanation” for its origins…I think it has been functioning quite perfectly and to an increasingly more intense and powerful degree as a symbol of what one knows/thinks one knows, what one saw/observed/thinks one saw/observed…what one imagines/interprets versus what one actually sees…and can we ever be 100% certain we’ve actually ever seen anything as it really was once that moment itself of seeing has passed (or even during that moment)? Or does the memory automtically distort the “reality” of that moment, even as we blink or turn our eyes away for a moment or wipe away the stain…and yet, at the same time, once that stain has been seen, even if we doubt afterward we ever saw it, doesn’t, quite simply, that stain always and forever remain (even if only in our minds?) “Out out damned spot!” Lady Macbeth scraping the very skin off of her hands…

    This is where Deza, I fear, is headed…to Lady Macbeth-land…where the stains of what he has experienced, and not just passively experienced, but allowed himself, perhaps at some level even willed himself to experience, and to take active part in to one degree or another, will never be washed away, even when the skin or the mind or the soul have been scrubbed and the literal evidence of the blood, the stain, has disappeared…

    I don’t know, it seems I’m in a distinct minority here…but I never once experienced any slowness or felt any boredom throughout any page of Vol II…as I said before, quite the opposite, to where the turning of the screw became almost thrillingly unbearable…

  • Neil

    At work, so can’t say much, but I agree with RJH that I never felt bored or frustrated with the ‘slow’ section in Volume two. I read it in a trance-like state and it was over before I knew it.

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