on 15 January 2010
Spaniard Jaime/Jacobo/Jack/Jacques Deza ( "interpreter of people, translator of lives") works for Bertram Putra's secretive and nameless agency in London in a building with no name. He is a person with a mind in continuous overdrive. Part 1 of the trilogy ended with a cliff hanger, with Deza being followed at night walking home. Part 2 provides a partial answer: the follower's identity is disclosed, also his request made to Deza and Deza's compliance. But not why he does so.
This book is a superb study about the concept of fear and how to instil it, with real-time and historical examples, such as horrific events during the Spanish civil war and the terror inflicted by the criminal, sword-wielding Kray twins in London in the 1960s. It gathers weight and speed in the second half, when Deza accompanies his boss to a nightclub for an important meeting during which Deza has to keep the wife of Tupra's contact happy, pleased with herself. What happens next is truly superior descriptive writing about fear and its application and provides the reader with two cliff hangers: Tupra decides Deza is still too naive for his own good, having his priorities wrong before driving him home. Before that, Tupra ordered Deza to accompany him on a foreign mission. In Part Three, Deza is going to be shown the facts of life, one way or the other.
Part 1 and 2 provide a backdrop for a dramatic and resounding finale in Part 3. Will Deza be welcomed back by his wife in Madrid? Will the mystery about the bloodstain on spy master Wheeler's staircase be solved conclusively? Etc., etc.
On the rebound from Part 1, I reread a few early novels by John Le Carre, the best writer on espionage. They hark back to the early 1960s. They proved to be timeless and fantastic entertainment. Marias' spy trilogy has been subordinated to lots of other ideas and memories and concerns and ambitions. He is longwinded and not as accessible as Le Carre, many of whose books require, after all, careful reading too. There are occasional nasty asides in Part 2: I share his distaste of Berlusconi, but why do women wearing berets deserve to be shot? Spanish readers may see more ultra-swift, one sentence-long character murders in this volume.
The plots thickens, the tension mounts. Volume 3, after all, equals the two introductory books in size and weight.
on 10 June 2013
In vol. 2 of Your Face Tomorrow JM's distinctively digressive style, the looping, repetitive motifs and themes which echo and recur like dreams, create a slow-moving but gripping and compelling novel. There are moments where the pace slows almost to the point of infarction, but these pass; the rewards for persevering are immense.
on 24 October 2006
The October 2006 book for my reading club: nearly 300 pages of a writer who is considered as a serious candidate to be a future Nobel Prize winner. But I was not impressed, it even irritated me (something that seldomly happens with books): pompous style, unclear contents, long sentences that just list events/things/persons. I thought that the problem might be in the translation, but when I tried the Spanish version it was just as awful. And since life is too short for unreadable books I stopped after 2 attempts and 67 pages (which meant that I gave it a serious try).