Your Face Tomorrow: Dance and Dream by Javier Marías

By the end of the first volume of Your Face Tomorrow, Amateur Reader led me to wonder how sustainable the voice of Jacques Deza would be through the remaining two volumes. Could this stream of consciousness, of endless hesitation and qualification, continue for hundreds more pages? Was it not too exhausting?

The stream does continue, at least through volume two, Dance and Dream, or rather, Dance and Dream. Deza’s particular brand of stream-of-consciousness narration leads him to tell his story in alternating partial episodes. One major episode, and perhaps the main one, in Dance and Dream, is the episode of the Manoias and the night club. Deza’s boss, Tupra, has a meeting with Mr. Manoia and his wife in a disco, and brings Deza along to translate and to keep the wife occupied. They are rudely interrupted by de la Garza, a fool we met in the previous volume, who acts unforgivably until Tupra’s revenge is even less forgivable still (or is it?). This episode continues through the ride home, with Tupra and Deza dropping off the Manoias at the Ritz and then Tupra driving Deza home afterward.

This one episode is broken up many times into many pieces of different length. And perhaps this episode itself is an interruption of some other episode—perhaps of the episode of Pérez Nuix coming to Deza’s apartment, the cliffhanger of the first volume that still remains largely unexplained throughout the second. Deza’s digressions rarely feel like digressions, but like episodes of their own. And, as I just noted, the night club episode may itself be one such “digression.” For example, the episode of Deza on the phone with Luisa, asking her about Botox, is doubtless an integral part of the story of his relationship with his estranged wife, and just as compelling as anything else he writes about. Above all, he’s telling the story in his own way, as he wants to tell it, turning and twisting as his mind goes to other elements of the whole, but always returning in his own good time to whatever the story is “really” about.

And as Deza does this, he constantly comments on just how well all the other characters in the novels do the same. In the first volume he discussed both Wheeler and Tupra in this way, and how they might seem to digress when explaining something or telling a story, but always went back at the appropriate moment and in their own good time. Luisa, on the phone going off on tangents, might not return to what they’re really talking about. He feels the need to nudge her. And later he must nudge Tupra as well, when Deza insists on sticking to a subject Tupra would rather shift to something else.

It’s all just another way for Deza to show us how perceptive he is, just in case we haven’t noticed exactly what he’s doing. He notices it in everyone, in the briefest of conversations. He must, then, notice it in himself as well, and consciously choose to narrate the trilogy in this manner. Is he in control this whole time, telling us just what he wants to just when he wants to, or is it a true natural stream of consciousness coming through—and is there a difference?

3 comments to Your Face Tomorrow: Dance and Dream by Javier Marías

  • Your final paragraph’s questions about Deza are fascinating given the fact that he’s a “translator or interpreter of people” who, his “special gifts” notwithstanding, seems to have been unable to read his wife or Tupra when it mattered. Love the way that Deza and Marías have chosen to tell the story, and unlike Amateur Reader, I’m not at all concerned that the stream of consciousness will prove exhausting before the end. I want to swim in the middle of it, in fact!

  • It’s great how you try to map out the episodes of the story in terms of which are the digressions and which are the interruptions, as it’s easy to get lost in the long drawn out stories, twisting and coiling upon each other, and to lose sight of the original thread. More like a stream of interrupted consciousness, or interrupted streams of consciousness.

  • Richard—Yes, I’m the same way. Although I do find that I have to really surrender myself to it. But once I do, I can sit for hours floating along in that stream, to continue the metaphor.

    Rise—If I had had more time, and perhaps I will still try to do this after I’ve finished the third volume, I would have liked to really map it out and pinpoint at least the bigger stories and digressions. I’m interested to see the pacing and interpolations and how it really does all work.