Sunday, July 10, 2011

Your Face Tomorrow - a review

This review is from: Your Face Tomorrow: Fever and Spear (Vol. 1) (New Directions Books) (Paperback). But, there's really only one way I can adequately discuss Volume I and that is to discuss the remaining two of Javier Marias's trilogy at the same time -- at least to some degree. Some of you may not have the stamina to pursue the other two in any case, so I will do my best to treat all three as one in a comprehensive discussion, rather than individually or in the order in which they were published.
Javier Marias is considered a genius by many and was Spain's hope for the 2010 Nobel Prize, which (unfortunately) went to the Peruvian conservative, Mario Vargas Llosa whose books I've never been able to finish because of the dark, unforgiving landscapes that plague his characters.

Reading Marias, however, is more like a romp through a lush playground of swings and slides. The anticipation is high in the beginning, but gradually we fall into a sort of passive walk around someone else's mind, an intellectual voyeurism that eventually numbs us into submissiveness the longer we read, until soon we've lost interest in the swings and slides and wander off with the writer into a rich labyrinth of words that makes us reach, question, deviate and learn.

We see everything through the eyes of Jaime (or Jacques, or Jacobo or . . . )Deza, an expatriate Spaniard living in London alone, with an estranged wife and children still living in Madrid. Deza is attractive and sharp and gains the attention of a man named Tupra, an enigma extraordinaire who remains an enigma throughout the three volumes of the novel. Nevertheless, Deza is eventually employed by Tupra through the recommendation of an elderly mutual friend named Peter Wheeler, who is, as I understand it, the reincarnation of Marias' mentor in real life, Sir Peter Russell.

Tupra, we suspect, is involved in a highly secretive organization supported by MI5 and MI6 and Deza is assigned the job of secretly analyzing and interpreting personalities of prospective employees, agents, enemies, even friends of the highly placed Tupra. Even with the long bouts of tediousness, the book moves along at its own respectable pace holding the reader's attention despite complex sentences and long paragraphs that contain repetition of phrases from earlier in the book -- phrases that become much like a refrain. It is not boring, fundamentally because of the intellect behind all the observation, a key word that bears repeating. He (Deza) "observes," without much action, but he observes with such a brainy substance. The language is leisurely and contemplative and wraps you up into a nice rich cocoon of contentment that you don't really want to leave even though the plot really doesn't go anywhere, except into a deep, shocking psychological territory that most of us have never been. The required resolution is there -- which becomes the surprising change that takes place in Deza, delivering him, ultimately, into a world he has consistently resisted throughout all three volumes.   

Those of you who want a captivating and complex intellectual mystery which involves questions of good and evil, action and non-action, and a skewed re-apportioning of moral responsibility, this book may be for you. If you're looking for a James Patterson murder mystery, skip it.

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