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Tomorrow in the Battle Think on Me by Javier…

Tomorrow in the Battle Think on Me (1994)

by Javier Marías

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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English (19)  Spanish (5)  Italian (3)  French (2)  German (1)  Dutch (1)  All (31)
Showing 1-5 of 19 (next | show all)
I always wonder when reading books written in a foreign language how much of the overall impact is down to the original writer, and how much to the translator. A case in point would be Patrick Suskind’s novel Perfume which I remember for the extraordinary flamboyance of its descriptive passages. Having only read it in English, I have no idea whether that was a straight representation of the original German, or a marvellous tour de force from the translator. Javier Marias’s novel is a simple story, beautifully told, and I find myself similarly unsure who to thank most: writer or translator. Of course, you are probably all shouting, ‘Does it really matter?’, and I suppose you are right.

The premise for the story is relatively straightforward. A man has dinner with a married woman while her husband is away on a business trip to London. This is their first night together, and romance is delayed until she has managed to put her young son to bed. During the night, she is taken ill and dies, leaving the man with a difficult decision: does he stay to inform the authorities and ensure that the boy is looked after, or does he just leave as quietly as possible, having removed any evidence that he had ever been there. He chooses the latter option, and the book recounts the various consequences that ensue.

Marais captures the man’s panic, and the wrenching of his conscience, masterfully. The book seethes with emotion, though never succumbs to tawdry cliché. Every character is entirely believable, and the story builds with great power. ( )
  Eyejaybee | Jan 13, 2017 |
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. ( )
  TheBookJunky | Apr 22, 2016 |
This is a book best read with no hurry, to savor every word. I haven't had much time to read so it felt a bit too long for me, with its run-on prose and recurring ideas. However, it is an intriguing story written in such fine language. ( )
  thioviolight | Feb 1, 2016 |
A compelling study - more of a thought experiment than a plotted novel, of a man whose first night with a married woman ends with her dying (of unexplained and probably natural causes). Marias is always a stylish writer, and this is impressively realised and quite gripping in places. He is also unafraid to give his "hero" unpleasant character traits. It does seem a little bit misogynistic in places - the male characters are much more fully realised than the women. ( )
  bodachliath | Jan 4, 2016 |
I liked this book, but I think a lot of that was due to the fact that I like these kinds of books. Marias writes with long, paragraph length sentences (while having few paragraphs) in an almost stream-of-consciousness style. I usually like that, and I did enjoy his writing, but I wasn’t impressed – maybe I’ve seen too many authors writing in a similar manner. In some other books, the writing has been so wonderful that I overlooked plot issues, but I had a number of nitpicks about the plot here. Still, it was a tense and involving story – will be reading more by the author.

Victor, the narrator, is having dinner with Marta while her husband is away. After she puts her young son to bed, they move to the bedroom and start kissing and taking off their clothes. Suddenly, she pulls back in pain and soon after dies. Victor finds himself in an extremely awkward situation. If he calls for help, their near-adultery will be discovered (and it can’t help Marta, who is dead). If he leaves, he’ll be leaving Marta’s son alone – he has no idea when her husband will be back or who will take care of the boy. He ponders this in Marias’s long, long sentences, and his thoughts take him back earlier in the evening and to his childhood and all over. Although Victor examines the consequences and his discomfort of his situation, his thoughts also wander off on many tangents. The rest of the story is narrated in a similar fashion, as Victor tries to worm his way – a bit inexplicably – into Marta’s family’s life. He also recollects a similarly indecisive and painful evening, with his ex-wife, which also left scars.

Even though Victor is the narrator, sometimes his decisions and behaviors are extremely questionable. His thoughts are interesting, but there’s some distance between the reader and the first person narrator. Also, the story feels limited. I think the book could have been more effective with a very claustrophobic feel to recreate the feeling of Victor’s obsessiveness. The writing supports that – there’s a repetitiveness that is very effective. However, plotwise, that is somewhat defeated by the addition of various other scenes, one about Victor’s past relationship, which was interesting but not related to the main plot, and another where Victor visits the racing track with a friend, which almost felt pointless. Instead, it feels like a lot of pondering over various adulteries and relationships among a small group of people. In addition, the female characters are generally limited in roles as romantic/sexual partners or prospects – Victor is always commenting on their looks – and the book wouldn’t pass the Bechdel test. While I liked the writing, I didn’t love it enough to overlook some of the things that bothered me, although I’d probably read more by the author. ( )
2 vote DieFledermaus | Apr 30, 2015 |
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» Add other authors (10 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Javier Maríasprimary authorall editionscalculated
Costa, Margaret JullTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Enzenberg, Carina vonTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Zahn, HartmutTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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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 Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:18:04 -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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