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Tomorrow in the Battle Think on Me by Javier…

Tomorrow in the Battle Think on Me (1994)

by Javier Marías

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English (14)  Italian (3)  Spanish (2)  French (1)  German (1)  Dutch (1)  All languages (22)
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M. è uno scrittore per fanatici. O piace, o lo odi. Perchè non si puo' pensare di seguire una frase senza punti per 50-60 righe. Perchè di tutta l'ipnosi verbale che lo scrittore induce non c'e' bisogno: bisogna sceneggiare, far procedere la storia. Non possiamo andare avanti 50 pagine ed essere sempre li' ad aspettare che Marta muoia. Muori, cazzo...!Pero', se si da la pazienza al narrare di entrare nella nostra attenzione labile si percepisce la maestria di M. nel costruire un romanzo che non ha eguali: nelle citazioni, nei rimandi, nell'intelligenza, nella capacità di evocare sentimenti e paure - sono stato in pena per Victor, davvero, ho avuto un senso di timore in alcuni punti del libro - nella sceneggiatura, nella definizione degli ambienti e dei personaggi. E' bellissimo ovunque, ad ogni modo. Un capolavoro letterario e visivo. ( )
  bobparr | Dec 14, 2014 |
Reading this was a very odd experience, since it's a bit of a dry run for the extraordinary Your Face Tomorrow... which I read first. 'YFT' is a half line from Shakespeare's Henry IV (late 1590s), while TitBToM is a line from Richard III (early 1590s), so it's possible that Marias will eventually write books with titles lifted from the later Roman plays. That would be fun.

More importantly, the themes of YFT (i.e., our continual attempts to 'know' people despite the fact that they will always slip away from us) are mostly present in this book, too, but the focus is much more on the incredible density of human social connections, and the fact that we can't opt out of that incredible density without destroying ourselves and, quite often, the lives of others. Any of our actions inevitably ties us up in an almost infinite number of consequences, as Victor finds out when he nearly but doesn't quite manage to have a one night stand with Marta (she dies in his arms). He's soon caught up in the petty dramas of the dead woman's family and, we're given to believe, will probably at least date her sister.

I'm still uncertain about the middle sections of the book, which tell of Victor's previous marriage. It's not obvious to me what they're doing there, although it might just be a digression (one of the conceits of the book is that Victor learned Anglo-Saxon, and that there's an Anglo-Saxon word for the relationship between two men who've slept with the same woman; this leads Victor to remember the most prominent of his sexual partners). That might be the only connection--the death of another man's wife bringing to mind his own ex-wife, a relationship that was no more stable than Marta's.

In any case, Marias' style and his recent preoccupations are all on display here. If you're considering looking at YFT, this is a good test. There's more 'action' in YFT, but this is much shorter and easier to grasp. Both titles are philosophically astute, gorgeously written and endlessly fascinating in a post-Proustian kind of way. ( )
  stillatim | Dec 29, 2013 |

It was my good fortune to be notified today by my local library that the book I had requested had been delivered to my branch and was available for me to pick up at my earliest convenience. The timing came at no better instant of my day as I was to complete within the hour my first full exposure to the work of Javier Marías. I confess to anyone considering what I might have to say on this matter that the reading of Tomorrow in the Battle Think on Me took me longer than I initially anticipated. It wasn't any fault of the writer as I found the book quite interesting. The reading was mysterious and suspenseful, and even philosophical enough to make me question much of my own life and those of the persons I was reading of. There were enough twists and turns to keep me occupied and wanting always each day to read more. But it tired me instead of the opposite. It wore me out. The weight was too heavy at times though Marías has a way of comforting and humoring even the most curmudgeonly obtuse reader such as the person I sometimes know I can be.

I was never quite sure who I was dealing with on the pages of this wonderfully written (and translated) novel. Even after finishing the book over an hour ago I still am not sure what I read or even why it was written. Victor, the narrator, reminds us several times that everyone has a story to tell and in it, in the telling of it, liberties can be taken whereas the teller becomes better and the recipient less than a receptor of the actuality and more a vessel for a continuing deceit. Hard to argue with that logic as I know my memory is no longer now to be fully trusted. I also tend to expound in too great of detail and to also disparage at times in almost criminal ways, enough to admit some sense of guilt in lying to you or even to myself it seems. However I try so hard not to do so. But even this may be another falsity as I have come to distrust myself in even the most trivial matters.

It is better I think for reviews to be written by those who know better. I am not a Javier Marías fan. Not yet, though I am thinking that after buying up most of his oeuvre based on this one book I read that it may at some point come to me as possibly knowing a thing or two about what it is I am reading by him. But not yet. I am too new. Call me a novice if you wish and I will be pleased with the spirit of your forgiveness. The book I walked four blocks to acquire in order to read is another Marías title called Written Lives, and on first peek it appears exactly what I need right now. I love to read about authors and what other writers think of them. Most of it may not be true, but if it is well-written I am always impressed and entertained immensely. And for the record I find it hard to consider potential-lover Victor any more a creep than the dead woman's husband, father, sister, and friends were, and the only character left not convicted by me would be the son who lost far more than all of the characters combined. ( )
  MSarki | Oct 10, 2013 |
1o cent score
  velvetink | Mar 31, 2013 |
My first clue to the structure of this novel, or the first one that I twigged to, was the recurrent untied shoelace. Untied shoelaces kept popping up, for no apparent reason. What is the significance of untied shoelaces that appear on pages 38, 80, 88, 112, 113, 131, 132, 136, 230, 238? I still don’t know, except that they prompted me to start reading the book in an entirely different way.

The narrator is a ghostwriter, who ghosts for another ghostwriter, and he is often invisible or strives to disappear from consciousness of others, even if it just in an awkward social setting (“discreet to the point of invisibility”). Ghostly themes haunt the book, beginning with the first line in which a woman dies in his arms, and in the repeated memories and stories of that event and its sequelae, blending in with the motifs of the “Richard III” quotes and references permeating the book.

But he is a storyteller and as he repeatedly tells us throughout, the storyteller gets to decide how to tell his story, how to convince and persuade, and the world depends on its storytellers. “It is the person telling the story who decides to tell it or even impose it on another, the person who opts for revelation or betrayal, the person who decides when to tell, and that usually happens when the weariness brought on by the silence and the shadow becomes too great, sometimes it is the only thing that drives people to recount facts that no one has asked for and that no one expects….” Variations on this passage are repeated throughout the novel, some of it verbatim, some altered slightly (pp 154, 228, 235, 236, 249, 301, 308, at least).

The weariness of the shadows (249, 252, 284) and the state of enchantment (66, 67,135, 162, 195, 242, 253, 284, 294 and more). “Travelling towards dissolution”, inaugurated on p 18 (“…everything travelling towards its own dissolution with the passing of the days and even the seconds that appear to sustain things but, in fact, suppress them…”) appears at least 11 times.

There are numerous small little repetitions that seem inconsequential or minor and yet are conspicuous by their reappearances. The shoelaces. “Inside-out” sleeves on the arms or caught on the wrists (pp 64, 152, 160, 199,242, 310). “Slippery as compacted snow” — an interesting description, for ‘compacted’ is not quite the word one would expect, but those three words are repeated in some form in at least 5 spots throughout. “When you first get hold of a telephone number, you always feel tempted to dial it at once.” Reading that the first time produced a tiny note of recognition, so it stood out in its own very small way. Then it reappears at least 3 more times. There are the “kisses of the one who is leaving” (p 18, 49, 300).

“The mother believes she was born to be a mother and the spinster to be single, the murderer to be a murderer and the victim a victim, just as the leader believes that his steps led him from the very beginning to hold sway over other people’s wills…” (P129). Later, p 228, “…we end up seeing our life in the light of the latest or most recent event, the mother believes that she was born to be a mother and the spinster to be single, the murderer to be a murderer and the victim a victim, and the adulteress an adulteress if she realizes, in the middle of an adulterous act, that she is dying…” And again this shows up on p 288 with another slight variation.

I gradually realise that these echoes are carrying the novel, they are part of the structure, forming an intricate web. There are so many once they are noticed. They are breathing through the novel.
This was my first Marias novel, so I didn’t appreciate that this is his style. He discusses this technique in a wonderful interview in the Paris Review: “In my novels there is what I call a system of echoes or resonances. A sentence reappears, sometimes with a variation. I try not to make it just a repetition but an illumination of the previous occasion in which it appeared. If I foresee that something will be used again in the book, then I write the page where it appeared.” (http://www.theparisreview.org/interviews/5680/the-art-of-fiction-no-190-javier-m...) I loved the intricacy and reverberations that result from this — reading the book becomes a more active and dynamic process. It engages the inner OCD, looking for all the echoes! He says, “If I close a book and there are no echoes, that is very frustrating. I like books that aren’t only witty or ingenious. I prefer something that leaves a resonance, an atmosphere behind.” (That Paris Review interview is strewn with many similar pearls — highly recommended).

It is a demanding novel, but in a simple and direct way: “Give me your attention, pay attention, you will be rewarded.” In the Paris Review interview, Marias says, “ I try the reader’s patience on purpose but not gratuitously.” The reward at the end is of a thundering cascade of echoes.
Thanks to Goodreads friends Fionnuala and Karen for recommending this book, I would never have discovered it otherwise.
This was one of the best books of the year. ( )
  BCbookjunky | Mar 31, 2013 |
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Per Mercedes López-Ballesteros, che mi ha sentito dire la frase di Bakio e ha conservato per me le mie righe.
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No one ever expects that they might some day find themselves with a dead woman in their arms, a woman whose face they will never see again, but whose name they will remember.
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Sembra un dato di fatto che l'uomo - e forse la donna ancora di più - abbia bisogno di una certa dose di finzione, vale a dire, abbia bisogno dell'immaginario oltre che dell'accaduto e del reale. Non mi spingerei fino al punto di usare espressioni che trovo risapute o kitsch, come affermare che l'essere umano ha biosgno di "sognare" o di "evadere" (un verbo, quest'ultimo, molto mal visto negli anni settanta, sia detto en passant. Preferisco dire che ha bisogno di conoscere il possibile oltre che il vero, le congetture e le ipotesi e i fallimenti oltre ai fatti, ciò che è stato tralasciato e ciò che avrebbe potuto essere oltre a quello che è stato. Qiando si parla della vita di un uomo o di una donna, quando se ne traccia una ricapitolazione o un riassunto, quando se ne racconta la storia o la biografia, in un dizionario o in una enciclopedia o in una cronaca chiacchierando tra amici, si è soliti raccontare ciò che quella persona ha portato a compimento e ciò che è effettivamente accaduto. In fondo, tutti abbiamo la stessa tendenza, vale a dire quella di vederci nelle diverse fasi della nostra vita come risultato e compendio di ciò che è accaduto e di ciò che abbiamo ottenuto e di ciò che abbiamo realizzato, come se fosse soltanto questo che costituisce la nostra esistenza. E dimentichiamo che quasi sempre le vite delle persone non sono soltanto questo: ogni percorso si compone anche delle nostre perdite e dei nostri rifiuti, delle nostre omissioni e dei nostri desideri insoddisfatti, di ciò che una volta abbiamo tralasciato o non abbiamo scelto o non abbiamo ottenuto, delle numerose possibilità che nella maggior parte dei casi non sono giunte a realizzarsi - tutte tranne una, alla fin fine -, delle nostre esitazioni e dei nostri sogni, dei progetti falliti e delle aspirazioni false e deboli, delle paure che ci hanno paralizzato, di ciò che abbiamo abbandonato e di ciò che ci ha abbandonati. Insomma, noi persone forse consistiamo tanto in ciò che siamo quanto in ciò che siamo stati, tanto in cio che è verificabile e quantificabile quanto in ciò che è più incerto, indeciso e sfumato, forse siamo fatti in egual misura di ciò che è stato e di ciò che avrebbe potuto essere.

(Epilogo: Quello che succede e quello che non succede)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0811214826, Paperback)

From "the most subtle and gifted writer in contemporary Spanish literature" (Boston Globe), a riveting novel of infidelity and a man trapped by a terrible secret.

"No one ever suspects," begins Tomorrow in the Battle Think On Me, "that they might one day find themselves with a dead woman in their arms.... Marta has just met Victor when she invites him to dinner at her Madrid apartment while her husband is away on business. When her two-year-old son finally falls asleep, Marta and Victor retreat to the bedroom. Undressing, she feels suddenly ill; and in his arms, inexplicably, she dies.

What should Victor do? Remove the compromising tape from the phone machine? Leave food for the child, for breakfast? These are just his first steps, but he soon takes matters further; unable to bear the shadows and the unknowing, Victor plunges into dark waters. And Javier Marías, Europe's master of secrets, of what lies reveal and truth may conceal, is on sure ground in this profound, quirky, and marvelous novel. "Brilliantly imagined and hugely intricate," as La Vanguardia noted, "it is a novel one reads with enormous pleasure."

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:47:26 -0400)

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While in bed with a lover, a married woman has a heart attack and dies. What should the lover do, besides feed the baby and discreetly leave the house? The problem is aggravated by his inability to keep a secret. A Spanish tale.

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