New Book

November 11, 2010

Two years after I first heard about it during my Bolaño craze, I have finally started Javier Marías’ “Dark Back of Time.”

I already know judging from the first few pages that I will enjoy it immensely. It has been a long time since I have been moved by an introduction. The writing reminds me of a little bit of Pessoa.

“Or it may happen that the ending survives me, as almost everything that arises from us or accompanies us or that we bring about survives us; our intentions last longer than we do. We set too many things in motion and then leave them, and their inertia, weak as it is, outlives us: the words that replace us and that someone occasionally remembers or passes on, not always confessing to their provenance; the letters smoothed flat, the bent photographs, the notes written on yellow paper, left for a woman who will sleep alone in the aftermath of wakeful caresses because we leave in the middle of the night like a scoundrel who is just passing through; the objects and furniture that served us and that we allowed into our homes—a red chair, a pen, an image of India, a toy soldier made of lead, a comb—the books we write but also those we buy and read only once or that remain closed on the shelf to the last and then carry on somewhere else with their life of waiting, hoping for other eyes more avid or more placid than ours; the clothes that will go on hanging among mothballs because someone may insist on keeping them, for sentimental reasons—though I don’t know if there are mothballs anymore—the fabrics fading and languishing in their airlessness, each day more oblivious to the forms that gave them meaning, the scent of those forms; the songs that will go on being sung when we do not sing or hum or listen to them; the streets that shelter us as if they were endless hallways and chambers that pay no attention to their ephemeral and inconstant residents; the footsteps that cannot be replicated, that leave no trace on asphalt or are quickly erased on dirt, those footsteps don’t stay behind but depart with us or even before us in their harmlessness or their venom; the medicines, our hurried scrawl, the cherished photos we display, which no longer look back at us, the pillow, our jacket hanging from the back of a chair, a pith helmet brought back from Tunisia in the 1930s aboard the ship Ciudad de Cádiz, it belongs to my father and still has its chin strap, and the Hindu lieutenant made of painted wood that I’ve just brought home with some hesitation, that figurine will also outlast me, or may. And the narratives we invent, which will be appropriated by others who, in speaking of our past existence, gone and never known, will render us fictitious. Even our gestures will continue to be made by someone who inherited them or saw them and was unknowingly mimetic or repeated them on purpose to invoke us and create a strange, momentary and vicarious illusion of our life; and perhaps there will remain, isolated in another person, certain of our traits which we will have transmitted involuntarily, as affectation or unconscious curse, because features can bring luck or misfortune, the eyes verging on Oriental and the mouth as if sketched on with a pencil—”beaky lip, beaky lip”—the chin almost cleft, the broad hands, a cigarette in the left one; I’ll leave no feature to anyone. We lose everything because everything remains except us. And therefore any form of posterity may be an affront, and perhaps any memory, as well.”