Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Book Expo- Waiting for Marias et al

BEA(Book Expo) is taking place this week at the Javits Center and we are surveying numerous new books and titles; there are a number of incredibly wonderful titles being published this year, many of them lost in the wake of the NY Times book reviews, which seem more and more pitched to those who hold book club discussions and read responsively...
 We have finished the UK edition of Javier Marias' The Infatuations. Marias, a prolific Spanish writer who has been compared to Proust and Henry James is more like a mad Cervantes, mixed with a dollop Of Sterne and then tiopped off with a layer of Proust.

There is no reading experience I have ever encountered that is as rich as the 3 volume Your Face Tomorrow, the existential espionage masterpiece of story telling published over the last fifteen years.
There is no writer whose paragraph if not page long sentences are more compelling. Even Laszlo Krasznahorkai does nor compel this level of excitement.

The plot(such as it is) can be neatly summarized thusly; A Madrileno, separated from his wife and two children who remain in Spain, takes a position with the BBC in London as a translator- At a party given by one of his former Oxford dons, he is recruited by Btitish espionage because he has the unique intuitive ability to read people's faces and predict what they will do "tomorow"or further in the future(the line comes from Henry IV,part 2, and is ascribed to Prince Hal)
In volume 2, most of the action takes place in a London Disco where the protagonist,Jaime Deza and his boss, the enigmatic Tupra, are entertaining a mafioso type, whose wife is being hit on by a Spanish compatriot, the latter who winds up in the handicapped men's room brought there by Deza at the direction of the boss,and who gets the living daylights pounded out of him by Tupra. When Deza later asks why this is ok,Tupra says 'why not" an d the nin volume 3 proceeds to lead him on a tour of past espionage videofootage;as a result, when Deza returns to Spain and finds that his estranged wife has bruises much like those the Spanish compatriot suffered in the men's room,(which she ascribes to being "hit by a garage door:" he takes  appropriate action as well.,before the denouement of the novel.
None of this can explain the incredible poweer of Marias'style of writing with his long loopimg paragraphs to engage with tthe culture the history and identity of numerous subjects from the Spanish Civil war(in which his father was informed on and exiled but not assassinated by Franco)and subjects ranging from the last Judgment to the relationship between botox and the botulin toxin that was used in the assassination of reinhard heydrich, the nazi Commandant of Prague)which provoked the fierce reprisal and slaughter by the Nazis of the inhabitants of a nearby Czech town)to obnscure works of art. A fabulous journey by a truly brilliant writer.

Take this passage for example quoted in extenso, but only part of an even longer soliloquoy:
in which the narrator is explaining why he cannot finish off the abusive boyfriend of his estranged wife:"I don't want anyone to disapear- was my next thought-I don't believe in the Last Judgment or in a great final dance of sorrow and contentment nor in some kind of rowdy get-together at which the murdered will rise up before their murderers and present their accusations to a bored and horrified judge.I don't believe that because I don't belong to the age of steadfast faith and because it's not necessary;...(and quoting what he imagines the about to be murdered victim would  say):".You're taking my life more for reasons of jealousy than justice,I haven't killed anyone not as far as you know,you're putting a bullet in my forehead or beneath my ear lobe not because you think I am beating up the woman who is no l onger your wife,as if I were some vulgar wife-beater,  ...but because you are afraid of me and and are going to fight for what is yours, as do all those who commit crimes and have to convince themselves that their crimes were necessary : for your God, for your king, for your country, your culture or your race;for your flag, your legend, your language, your class,or your space.for your honor, your religion, for your family, for your strongbox, for your purse, for your sox;;or for your wife......"
What more can one say-as brilliant a prose stylist as I have ever encountered..