Read Tomorrow in the Battle Think on Me by Javier Marías Free Online
Book Title: Tomorrow in the Battle Think on Me|
The author of the book: Javier Marías
ISBN 13: 9781860464348
Edition: Vintage Press
Date of issue: April 2nd 1998
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 19.16 MB
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Reader ratings: 3.1
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‘It is unbearable that people we know should suddenly be relegated to the past.’
Death is inevitable. From the very first page of Javier Marías’ flawlessly executed novel ‘Tomorrow In the Battle Think On Me’, death becomes a constant companion to the reader, always whispering in our ear the truths of our impermanence and the endless variety of possible deaths that await us – horrible deaths, ridiculous deaths, death that may make a stranger laugh when they read it in the paper. ‘Any dead life lasts longer than an inconstant lived life’ and our time spent beneath the sky leaves such a tiny trace once we are transferred to our time beneath the soil. However, every single moment of our living actions are intertwined with those around us and bear down in their memory. Through a narrator whose tightly knit, yet meandering ruminations serve as an exquisite investigation into the implications of storytelling and language, Marías examines the permanent marks the departed leave on our consciences, the voids their absence forms in our lives, and our endless interconnectivity as we are flung forward towards oblivion.
‘How little remains of each individual in time, useless as slippery snow, how little trace remains of anything…’ This chilling sentiment is often pondered by the narrator throughout this incredible novel. After a potential fling with a married woman is suddenly extinguished by her sudden death, our narrator must bear the burden of her memory, her name, and that of her young child whom he sets out a plate of food for before slipping away into the night, is forever etched into his conscience. ‘What a disgrace it is for me to remember your name, though I may not know your face tomorrow’ The lives of those lost slowly slip into ‘the reverse side of time, it’s dark back’, their features slowly fade in our memory; their belongings become redundant and useless - their personal charm washed away with the fleeting spirit; and slowly they dissolve from the world as we look to those alive and think on the dead less and less as time assuages the pain of their loss. While Marías often leaves the reader flailing in a vacuum, facing their inevitable oblivion, there is a sense of hope. There is hope in the fleeting ways we leave our living on the lives of those we encounter, cradled in their memories to cling to the world through them.
In this way, Marías presents a Madrid characterized by its ghosts. The living slip through the streets with carrying the ghosts of others in their minds and hearts, streets are named for famous fallen heroes, parks named for bombing mishaps during the war – the whole city is entrenched in its history. However, it is not only the dead who are faced with their dissolution, and all throughout the novel we are presented with characters slowing dissolving into oblivion despite the beating of their hearts. The narrator is a political ghostwriter who writes for another ghostwriter – a mere ghost of a ghost, a political leader that enlists his aid fears being forgotten and not leaving a mark on the memory of his people, and characters shroud themselves in mystery and shadows to avoid connection to a death. While it is unbearable to know another has died, it is equally unbearable to dissolving while still alive. Memory is the only way they can cling to the world as well, such as a sullen speech by the political figure, Solitaire aka Only the Lonely aka Only You etc., where he expresses fears that ‘the more reviled the person, the more memorable they are’. Those who hold secrets inside feel so burdened by them that they must eventually bring them out into the light, not because of a growing shame eating away at the soul, but because ‘they have merely been overcome or motivated by weariness and a desire to be whole.’ It is the bonds we form with others that builds a sense of permanence, by sharing memories or sharing our stories, we pass them on so that we can forge a space in the hearts of others that will continue after our own departure. Sometimes our ghosts can be a heavy burden, such as the film seen by the narrator (a film of Richard III) in which an old King is visited by the ghosts of those who lost their lives in his name, mocking him, cursing him: ‘tomorrow in the battle think on me, and fall thy edgeless sword. Despair and die.’ The world is but a history of ghosts seeking remembrance in the hearts of the living, sometimes out of love, sometimes out of malice. Yet how much of another can be imposed upon us, since much is ‘of no interest to the person receiving it, who is busy forging his or her own memories.’ The real irony, however, is that even our sense of permanence, the fragments that do find their way into the minds of others, is just another form of fleeting impermanence. Those who hold us in our hearts will eventually rot away as well, taking our ghost to the grave with them.’[E]verything is continually travelling on, everything is connected, some things drag other things along with them, all oblivious to each other, everything is travelling slowly towards its own dissolution the moment it occurs and even while it is occurring…’
The way our lives are connected is illuminated brilliantly through Marías. The way others are etched into our hearts like names on a tombstone only cracks the surface. Marías uses language in a unique and compelling way to tie everything together. Using repetition to revisit many of the narrator’s luscious meditations when they apply to a new situation, it is as if he doubles back to stich a new fold together in the narrative, carefully sewing all the events and ideas together to form one large potent message on life and death. i>When we go back to a very familiar place, the intervening time becomes compressed or is even erased and cancelled out for a moment as if we had never left, it is that unchanging space that allows us to travel in time.’ The way Marías juggles his themes and pulls all the vast array of ideas together in the closing scene makes for one of the most impressive conclusions to any novel I have ever read. It is nothing short of genius. Through this connection of ideas, Marías reminds us that this is a story being told to us, a story from one perspective turning the reality around him into a cast of characters to move about a narrative to express the way he perceived it, which opens up an incredible examination on language.
Not only is all of humanity connected, but words as well. Each word drags with it an assortment of connotations, which he examines in detail, each change from the usted to the tu and vice versa is dissected to extract a wealth of hidden meaning, and every word ‘is at once one thing and its contrary’ (an idea that Derrida would be pleased to see put to good use). It is our language that allows us to interact with one another beyond the purely physical, and while both leave us forever altered by any interaction with another, it is only through language that we are able to examine and express the ineffable impact of our collisions with the bodies and consciousness of others. ‘What a strange contact that intimate contact is, what strong, non-existent links it instantly forges, even though, afterwards, they fade and unravel and are forgotten…but not immediately after establishing those links for the first time, then they feel as if they were burned into you, when everything is fresh and your eyes still wear the face of the other person’The physical contact bonds us to others, and not only to those we immediately make contact with, but all those with whom we are now linked to by the process of our minds acknowledging that the other has contact with people beyond us and now we are linked to them through this chain of interaction. The narrator often tries to recall an old Anglo-Saxon term that failed to be adopted into the languages that stemmed from it, a term describing the bond between those who have shared a bed with the same person. The narrator feels an unbearable burden to acknowledge all the men he may ‘be related to Anglo-Saxon-style’, and posits that the word has not survived because ‘it isn’t easy to accept the act that it describes and it’s therefor better not to name it’, a ‘connection based on rivalry and unease and jealousy and drops of blood’. It is language that ties us together the most; language binds us with those around us and with those throughout all of human history.
Having repeatedly drawn our attention to language, Marías uses the entirety of his story to examine the act of storytelling. ‘I am the one who counts,’ he tells us, ‘the one telling the story and the one who decides who will speak… therein lies the pathetic superiority of the living, our temporary motive for triumph.’ It is not the victors who write history, but merely those who survive the events. ‘People are interpreted by other people’ and it is through language that we interpret others and our surrounding events, and language is ultimately a fallible device. Every word we utter drags its weight in connotations and the debris of both the teller and the listeners perceptions further taint each word. Marías gives us not only an unreliable narrator, but a narrator openly admitting to his unreliability while insisting upon it at the same time. ‘[N]o one does anything convinced of its injustice,’ he remarks as well as that ‘everything depends on the end result doesn’t it, and that includes everything, even if it’s only an instant in time, one particular action varies depending on the effect it has.’ This presents a reality in which truth and morality is subjective to an individual, and the reader must be ever conscious to see through the narrative as it is delivered by a mind utterly convinced of the validity of each action. What may come across as endearing could be viewed as creepy from an outside perspective, which is something we must all take to heart, remembering to think outside ourselves in our everyday interactions. If we do act in acknowledgement of the injustice of our actions, our soul buckles under the weight, and visions of ghosts may haunt us in our sleep. We become enshrouded in shadows, burdened by our desire to become whole again through the act of storytelling.
The most impressive idea is that once a story has left the lips of the teller, it becomes the property of all those that have heard it. While it may seem improbably that each speaker in the novel should be so well equipped to deliver such moving and poetic monologues as they do, it must be remembered that it is the narrator’s story, and there words are now his property to use and shape as he sees fit, to elaborate and polish. It is in his right to ‘forget what really happened and replace it with fiction’. He is by trade a ghostwriter, and wouldn’t it be only natural to ghostwrite the words of those he interacts with? However, what is most important is that this is a story being delivered unto us, the reader, to take hold in our hearts and minds, finding its own sense of immortality by being passed from one to another. When we seek meaning, entertainment, joy and solace in the words of a story, it isn’t the events that matter and why should it matter if they are fact or fiction, because it is how the story reverberates within us that matters most. It is how we internalize and reshape it to fit our ourselves so we can pass it on again.’Our lives are often a continuous betrayal and denial of what came before, we twist and distort everything as time passes, and yet we are still aware, however much we deceive ourselves, that we are the keepers of secrets and mysteries, however trivial’This novel simply blew me away. It came highly recommended from an extremely trustworthy source, and managed to not only reach, but to jump leaps and bounds over my expectations. It is one of my favorite novels now. Marías is a master of language, meandering at every possible chance to cast a loquacious flashlight into each crevasse of thought along the way, yet keeping an incredible intensity as he builds this psychological masterpiece. The text is dense and macabre, yet darkly humorous and uplifting at the same time. His ability to tie such a wide range of ideas together is staggering, from large themes and motifs to clever repeated actions such as shoelaces coming untied to emphasize the idea of a life coming unraveled despite all attempts to hold it together. I confess I had an extremely difficult time putting together this review, there is too much to discuss and the only method of tying it all together into a feasible and comprehensive manner is to just read the novel. Or perhaps this book took such a hold on my heart that I feel any attempt to turn it over would spoil and tarnish it with my fingerprints. This novel is truly amazing, and a truly amazing portrait of our struggle to find handholds in eternity while being sucked into oblivion.
‘When things come to an end they have a number and the world then depends on its storytellers, but only for a short time and not entirely, they never fully emerge from the shadows, other people are never quite done and there is always someone for whom the mystery continues.’
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Read information about the authorJavier Marías was born in Madrid. His father was the philosopher Julián Marías, who was briefly imprisoned and then banned from teaching for opposing Franco. Parts of his childhood were spent in the United States, where his father taught at various institutions, including Yale University and Wellesley College. His mother died when Javier was 26 years old. He was educated at the Colegio Estudio in Madrid.
Marías began writing in earnest at an early age. "The Life and Death of Marcelino Iturriaga", one of the short stories in While the Women are Sleeping (2010), was written when he was just 14. He wrote his first novel, Los dominios del lobo (The Dominions of the Wolf), at age 17, after running away to Paris.
Marías operates a small publishing house under the name of Reino de Redonda. He also writes a weekly column in El País. An English version of his column "La Zona Fantasma" is published in the monthly magazine The Believer.
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