“Folly,” as the voluble and persnickety narrator of Marias’s enormous, complex Your Face Tomorrow would surely tell me, is a word with multiple meanings. I have the architectural definition in mind, primarily, but the metaphor of the folly house always suggests the other meanings, doesn’t it? I love folly houses. Who doesn't?
For a couple of days, notes, just notes. Other readers can tell me if they are promising. Please see the remarkable In lieu of a field guide for something rather more substantial, especially the section on the meaning of translation - that gets right ti the heart of this book. Thanks to the Memory Caravan for hosting the readalong.
* A basic question – how is the narrator, Deza, narrating, and who is his audience? Is he writing, speaking – surely not – or are we overhearing his thoughts, hearing his self-justifications, his own attempts to work through the events or ideas of the book. I assume the latter, but wonder about the former. I have pretty strong evidence that someone has written a book.
Finishing the entire novel answers a related question. Deza’s story is entirely retrospective. He knows all of the events of the story before he begins telling it. Any oddities in the ways he tells the story or gaps are his choice. Although: what does he learn while telling the story, even if he is only telling it to himself?
* I suspect Your Face Tomorrow of containing puzzles and secrets, that it is akin to Pale Fire and The Good Soldier. I also suspect that it is not like those books at all, but let me assume that it is. I wonder if it is possible, for example, to fill in the narrator’s most significant gap.
Why is Deza’s wife unable to live with him? The couple spends almost all of the book formally separated, with Deza in London and his wife and children in Madrid. We learn that, after the events of the plot, with Deza back in Madrid, the couple has reconciled but live in separate apartments. “’Promise me that we’ll always be like this, the way we are now, that we’ll never again live together,’” she tells him during one of their “best or most passionate or happiest moments.” (III.535)
Perhaps the answer is an accumulation of domestic banalities that are not worth the trouble of enumerating. Or perhaps the problem is Deza’s unbearable, repetitive, pedantic, and unending flow of speech. I am partly joking about that one. The marriage and spy plot intersect in one significant long scene, and I detect hints, quite possibly false, of another answer. I likely missed or forgot something more straightforward.
* All of this is part of a larger question about the mental health of the narrator. The novel’s events have been a shock to his system. What are the lasting effects? Deza uses the metaphor of poison, or, amusingly, of a Botox treatment. His endless flow of thought or words is often broken by a strange list:
Why all that conflict and struggle, why did they fight instead of just looking and staying still, why were they unable to meet or to go on seeing each other, and why so much sleep, so many dreams, and why that scratch, my pain, my word, your fever, the dance, and all those doubts, all that torment? (II.278)
The sense of the sentence collapses. It is like a mental short-circuit, that lapse into the (sleep, dreams, fever, etc.) list, a list which contains some but not all of the titles of the sections of the novel (Fever, Spear, Dance, Dream, Poison, Shadow, Farewell) and has other elements that could have been titles, although the items and order do vary. Deza's questions become too difficult, or he gets too close to an ugly truth, and – buzz zap – these words pop out. “Your fever” – who is “you”?
Look how long I have gone on. I am as bad as Deza, except that I hit the carriage return button more often. My title is from Stephen Mitchell’s translation of Rilke’s first Duino Elegy – more of that tomorrow.