It is because we cannot really communicate that communication is possible
“Don’t wait for a writer to die to read him”, but unfortunately, probably many readers have not read Javier Marias and are about to say goodbye to him. The Spanish novelist, who died in Madrid on September 11, is the first of many precious figures we have lost this year.
Fortunately, it is never too late for a good writer to start reading. Today, I share Conyare’s review of Javier Marias’s “White Smudges” (included in the “Guide to Bliss”) in honor of this brilliant novelist.
Wandering between Javier’s So Pale Heart, Hitchcock’s films and Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Conyare cheerfully shares the subtleties of Javier Marias’ novels with readers: See how he puts seemingly fragmented story fragments into mutually attractive “celestial systems”, and how he penetrates the deepest secrets of love and betrayal.
Written by: Konyare
Like many writers, Javier Marias has a picture of his idol in his study in central Madrid. It was a fat, smooth-skinned man—not some writer he admired, it was Hitchcock in his youth. If you’re familiar with Marias’ work, you won’t be surprised. Because his novels are full of Hitchcock-esque suspense, betrayal and murder, and the black hole-like mysteries often end up in a super-Mariasian, pages-long, hilarious super-long. sentence, which appears at the beginning of the novel (which has become his literary brand tag, like some sort of recognizable, seductive logo). In “Love”, a female editor at a publishing house finds that a strange man who eats breakfast with her in the same cafe every day is shot and killed in the street; During the affair, the woman suddenly died in his arms; and his most famous masterpiece, “Such a Pale Heart”, which won the Dublin IMPAC International Literature Award, began like this:
I didn’t want to know but finally did, one of the two girls, who wasn’t really a girl anymore, walked into the bathroom, looked in the mirror, opened her shirt, took off her bra, shortly after her honeymoon trip. , pointed her father’s pistol to her heart, while her father was eating at the restaurant with other family members and three guests. About five minutes after the girl left the table, they heard a gunshot, and the father didn’t stand up immediately, but stayed there for a few seconds, motionless, his mouth still full of food, neither daring to bite nor swallow , not to mention spitting back on the plate; finally he got up and ran to the bathroom, and those who followed noticed that he was still holding his head in his hands when he found his daughter’s body lying in a pool of blood. The meat in my mouth moved from side to side and I don’t know what to do. ……
It’s a fantastic, uncut, long sequence—an entire five-page segment that makes up the first part of the novel. There are only two “I”s in this terrifying opening. The first time was the first word of the first sentence, the second time was the last sentence: “Everyone said Lance, that brother-in-law, the husband of the deceased, my father, was out of luck, this is his second become a widower.”
Secrets are in bloom. It’s so eerie and beautiful, it’s almost impossible not to be drawn to it and yearn for it to bloom. However, it will be a long wait. This is another of Marias’s literary labels, or a forte: digression and interlude. He is fond of and adept at changing the direction of the narrative suddenly, but quite naturally, by ignoring the unfolding mysteries in favor of telling another story that—at least ostensibly—has nothing to do with it. So, after the bizarre suicide scene at the beginning, Marias, with an incredible agility, in just a few sentences, foreshadows the relationship (“My” mother is the other of “Two Girls”) , the deceased’s sister), completes the time-shift (and then we’re taken to another story, an adventure that took place on “my” honeymoon—also a honeymoon, mind you—): “Those are long It’s the past, when I wasn’t born and didn’t have any slim chance of being born. And it was from that moment that I was able to come into this world. Now, I’m married.”
Similar “broken narrative” occurs many times in the novel. This brings to mind many postmodern novels or films (like Bolaño and David Lynch). At first glance, Marias’ novel seems to be like them, a collage of parallel juxtaposed short stories (and also exuding an almost overpowering, branded personal style), yet when you read The whole novel, or when you read it a second time (which is necessary), you realize why the picture in his study is Hitchcock and not David Lynch. For although his work has a postmodern appearance, its essence is classical and Hitchcockian, hiding an elegant and precise correspondence, balance and integrity – like a closed universe: we can put these surfaces The stories that do not seem to be related to the above are regarded as planets. Although they are independent of each other, they are jointly subject to some invisible and invisible dark matter. It is because of the strong gravitational force radiated by this dark matter that they can be suspended independently. In mid-air, and with it as the center, it constitutes a perfectly functioning celestial system.
This dark matter is the secret that appeared at the beginning of the novel. In addition to this core secret, which was there from the beginning but loomed, the novel is full of many other secrets, big and small. This is a book of secrets. Backstage at the narrator “I”, Juan’s wedding reception, his father Lance gave him a piece of advice: “If you have any secrets, don’t tell her.” And he also prophesied — in a familiar voice. — “I guess you and Luisa will both have secrets. . We’ll talk about it later), when so many secrets converged at one point, the father’s words, like the thunder of a delayed arrival, echoed in Juan’s mind again. Marias went on to write that the secret has no personality of its own, it is determined by concealment and silence, or by prudence and oblivion. Here we can add: it is also determined by waiting. Because all secrets are both trying to hide and expecting to be revealed. Because there is no secret without waiting. Yes, “if you know her secret, it’s not a secret”. But if you don’t know she (or he) has a secret, it’s not a secret either. Secrets and waiting are two sides of the same coin. This is a book of secrets, so this is also a book of waiting. In fact, a little observation reveals that it is three stories about waiting that run through the beginning and the end and support the overall structure of the novel—and these are three real, practical waits.
The first wait was the aforementioned “honeymoon adventure,” or, more precisely, a “mistake”: Havana at dusk, a sexy woman waiting in the street (already waiting for a hours), mistook Juan for someone else—the one she’d been waiting for—and started yelling at him (“What the hell are you doing there?” “I’m going to kill you Son of a bitch!”); and now, behind Juan, his ailing new wife, Luisa, is sleeping in the dimly lit room. Soon, the misunderstanding was finally clarified, she was waiting for another man who lived in the room next to Juan, and then, with the quarrel fragments passing through the wall, we learned together with Juan that they were a pair of lovers, and the man named Miriam’s woman is impatiently waiting (so, double waiting here) to upgrade from mistress to wife.
Film “The Beautiful Legend of Sicily”
The second wait took place in New York. After the honeymoon, Juan spent eight weeks in New York as an interpreter for an international conference at the United Nations. During that time he borrowed to live with his old friend Berta. They slept a few times in college, but now the relationship is more like a brother and sister who talk about everything. One night, in order for Berta to meet Bill, a mysterious lover who claims to be “working in a high-exposure field” through a magazine call, Juan has to spend hours on the street below a high-rise apartment, waiting for Berta to signal (turn off the lights). to go up. (“While waiting,” Marias writes here, “you can feel every second, every second as if it were an individual, solid and solid, like pebbles falling from hand to the ground one by one.” .) After waiting for more than four hours, Juan became increasingly restless (he feared that Berta had been killed), and just as he was about to go to check desperately, the mysterious Bill appeared at the door of the building—and then the lights Went out.
The third wait is the brightest moment in the book—if we look at the novel as a splendid fireworks display. This time in Madrid, on a rainy night, Juan had only returned from New York for a week. He had just finished having sex with Louisa, and then went into the study for a while. He looked out the window, “looking at the raindrops illuminated by the beams of light from the curved street lamps, and the raindrops flowed down in a silvery white.” At this time he noticed that on the corner of the road, under the eaves of the building opposite, there was a man looking up at their bedroom window.
The movie “The Exorcist”
Although he couldn’t see his face, Juan immediately recognized who the man was – his childhood friend, his father’s long-term friend, and the first person to reveal to him the suicide mystery at the beginning of the novel: Little Gus Taldo easy. Is he waiting for some kind of code? Could it be that what happened between Gustardoi Jr. and Luisa during Juan’s eight weeks in New York? Immediately afterwards, Marias once again showed us his incomparable time and space shifting technique:
He waits, probes, like a man in love. A bit like Miriam, a bit like me a few days ago. Miriam and I were in different cities on either side of the Atlantic Ocean, and Gustardeau Jr. was on the corner of my street. I haven’t waited like a man in love, but I’ve waited for the same thing as little Gustav.–
That thing is darkness. Perhaps little Gustardor Doyi was also waiting for the lights to go out, Hu An thought, just as he was on the streets of New York that night waiting for the lights in Berta’s apartment to go out. The next dozen or so pages are the most subtle and shocking parts of the entire novel: from the perspective of Juan’s stream of consciousness, the three waits (or, so to speak, all the waits in the book) are intertwined, intertwined, and merged into one. As if some kind of holographic image, each fragment—every scene, paragraph, even sentence—reflects each other, mirrors each other, and reflects the whole. Juan decided to give little Gustardor Doyi darkness, and he turned off all the lights in the house:
So, I know that all our windows are in darkness with no lights. I looked out of my window again. Little Gustardowy was still looking up, face high, white smudges towards the dark sky. Although sheltered by the eaves, the raindrops beat on him and landed on his cheeks, perhaps mixed with sweat instead of tears. Raindrops falling from the eaves usually land in the same spot, loosening the soil there until the rain seeps into the soil, creating a hole or a ditch. Holes and ditches are like Berta’s private parts, which I’ve seen and videotaped; or Louisa’s private parts, where I stopped just a few minutes ago. I thought to myself: Now he will leave, as soon as he sees the lights are off, he will leave. Just like many days ago, when I saw the Berta lights go out, I stopped waiting. If so, it’s an agreed-upon cipher. I was also on the streets of New York for a while, like Gustav Doi Jr. now, and Miriam a long time ago. It’s just that Miriam didn’t know that on her head there were two faces or two white smudges and four eyes looking at her – mine and Guillermo’s eyes. The current situation is that Louisa does not know that there are two eyes peeping at her in the street, but cannot see her. And little Gustav Doi did not know that I was looking down at him in the dark, watching him from a height; at this time, the rain was pouring down like mercury in the light of the street lamps. In New York, by contrast, Berta and I knew where each other was, or could guess. He’s leaving now, I thought.
Marias’ excellent scene description is often reminiscent of Hitchcock’s movie scene. Miriam, in her low-cut, crew-neck yellow shirt and white skirt, looks a lot like Kim Novak’s Judy in Vertigo, doesn’t she? They were equally plump, and equally sexy and vulgar (“Her legs were so thick and so conspicuous that the high heels seemed to be wrapped in them; Like being firmly embedded in the ground, and like a jackknife stuck in a wet plank”). Juan, who waits on the streets of New York late at night, is reminiscent of the villain Bruno in “Stranger on a Train” (“sticked to the streetlight like a witty drunk”, “with newspaper in hand under a beam of light” read”). The above-mentioned Madrid rainy night is a typical Hitchcock-style shot: the silver-white raindrops under the street lights, and the figure of a man wearing a hat on the street corner, peeping down from behind a dark window. But what Marias does is not only learn from and pay homage to his idol, but he also goes above and beyond. Even Hitchcock (or any other director, no matter how good) could not have made such a light, multi-layered, subtle and wonderful transition of consciousness and time and space. Given the sales and impact of the novel (it sold millions of copies in Europe), and the fact that it has not been – and certainly cannot – been made into a film, we might say that it is one of the first times in literature in this age of images. Small victory.
“A Heart So Pale” is Marias’ seventh novel (written in 1992, when he was forty-one), and perhaps his most perfect work to date. Full of whimsy, half-joking, half-serious super-long sentences and super-long paragraphs, micro-sculptures of the characters’ psychology, multi-angle scene scheduling with a strong sense of picture – I think no one will object to Marias. Known as a virtuoso writer. But it must be stated: the “showing off” here is entirely a compliment. Because although his novels are complex in language, exquisite in structure, and swaying in the use of technique, they are amazing – but what is even more amazing is that at the same time, all this is extremely natural, not far-fetched, and hardly any fabrication can be found traces (even though we know it must be fabricated). Perhaps this is because the fabricated materials he uses are not “event coincidences”, but “emotional coincidences”. The former can easily make us feel false and over-designed, while the latter is more subtle and solid.
The three waits mentioned above are the best example. The reason why these three waits are so subtly and naturally concatenated, and finally have a subtle resonance and echo with the suicide mystery at the heart of the novel, except for the specificity and continuity of time (they take place in sequence during the honeymoon, during a long-term business trip after the honeymoon, and returning from a business trip), but also because they have several emotional things in common. They are all related to some secret. They are all about love—or rather, betrayal of love. They all happen in the dark. And, more symbolically, they all contain a gap in distance (both material and spiritual): upstairs and downstairs, looking down and looking up, misunderstanding and suspicion. This symbolism becomes clearer when one considers the occupations of several of the main characters in the book.
Juan, Luisa and Berta are all engaged in translation and interpretation work, mainly serving various international organizations, conferences and international offices. However, the job is not only not as interesting and important as it sounds, it is also “extremely boring” because – Juan tells us sarcastically – “all heads of state, ministers, parliamentarians, ambassadors, experts and representatives of almost all countries in the world All speeches, appeals, protests, inspirational speeches and reports are also invariably drowsy.” The sarcasm culminates in the dark comedy of Juan and Luisa’s acquaintance (one of the best episodes in the book): Juan is working for two high-ranking officials in Britain and Spain. interpreter, and Luisa is the so-called “supervisor” sitting behind him, and on a whim (and a secret affection for Luisa) Juan mischievously says “You need me to order you a cup of tea. It was translated into “Excuse me, do the people of your country love you?” Later, it was precisely because of Juan’s mistranslation that the British high-ranking female officials cited Shakespeare’s Macbeth.
Film “Translation Doubt”
The title “Such a Pale Heart” also comes from Macbeth. After Macbeth murdered the sleeping King Duncan of Scotland, his wife smeared the dead man’s blood on the faces of the servants next to them to frame them, and said to Macbeth, “My hands are the same color as yours, but I’m ashamed to let my heart turn white like yours.” Eventually, you’ll notice a vague correspondence between the bizarre mystery at the beginning of the novel and Shakespeare’s archetypal murder tale. (When the mystery is finally revealed at the end of the book, it produces effects comparable to the best detective novels: both unexpected and expected. It penetrates the book like a ray of light, illuminating the Brighten up every sentence, every detail, every digression and paraphrase from the first sentence, making their presence fresher, deeper, and more necessary.) You will also come to realize that what is truly pale is not heart, but translation. “Translation”, like “secret,” is another central word of the novel. Everything is translated. Everything needs to be translated. Whether it’s love, family, friendship, or politics and international conferences. And the nature of translation determines its limitations and incompetence, so everything is doomed to be full of misunderstanding, betrayal and loss. This translation, or the inability of communication, permeates every corner of the novel: Lance’s refusal to talk about his son Juan; those symbolic waits; Berta having to exchange videotapes to find a lover; Even the final revelation of the secret is revealed by eavesdropping. Everything is translated, and nothing can really be translated.
The movie “Macbeth”
But we still have to translate. It’s like though we must die, we still have to keep on living. Although misunderstandings and betrayals are inevitable, we cannot help but seek true love. While politics is dirty and full of intrigue, we continue to meet, vote, and sign deals. This paradox is the way life – and the world in general – exists. Or, in the words of another film director, Bresson, “communication is made possible precisely because we cannot really communicate”.
White is often used to symbolize purity. But in Marias’ description of the three waiting scenes, the word “white smear” pops up prominently several times. It is used to describe the face of little Gustav Doi looking up in the rainy night, and the faces of Juan and her lover in Miriam’s eyes. It’s a wonderful metaphor—very camera-like, yet meaningful at the same time. White smudges? It’s reminiscent of a “white lie”—what we call a “white lie.” Everyone tells white lies. Everyone has their own secrets. Everyone’s face, and heart, was like a white smudge. Nietzsche said that a mature person will discover that truth is not only about beauty and goodness, but also about evil and ugliness. True love is the same. True love can also—probably—include smears, lies, and secrets. Of course, as Lance said, “you only know your own secrets”. So we are always only interested in the secrets of others, and only wait and suffer for the secrets of others. Did anything really happen between Luisa and Gustav Doi the Younger? Juan wanted to know, and we wanted to know too (but in the end neither we nor Juan knew). However, we inadvertently learned another little thing, another secret.
That happened during Juan’s post-wedding business trip in New York, just before Berta was ready to go on a date with the mysterious lover Bill, before the second wait began. Berta asked Juan if she could lend her a condom while applying makeup to the mirror. Condoms? To this narrator “I”, Juan’s reaction was: he answered without hesitation and naturally, I should have it in my toilet bag! – “As if all she wanted was a pair of tweezers.”
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