In one of literary history's great instances of the pot calling the kettle black, Henry James complained of 'the absence of spontaneity, the excess of reflection' in George Eliot's work. To other readers, of course, the proportion that Eliot - or even late James - sets up between narrative spontaneity (or action and event), on the one hand, and reflection or disquisition, on the other, seems harmonious and attractive, and it's certainly easy enough to think of novels suffering from the opposite problem of lots of action and little thought. This second, more hardboiled category is one into which no one would think of putting the work of the Spanish novelist Javier Marķas, despite the bodies that pile up in his pages; his ratio of mind to matter approaches a ghostly extreme. Characteristically, the gigantic and recently completed trilogy, Your Face Tomorrow, delivers three essays on the inadvisability of imparting or receiving confidences before the narrator has confided the first thing about where he has been living or what he has been doing there. Not that this robs Marķas's novels of suspense: How shall I put this? is probably a more reliably involving gambit than Here's what happened.
LRB 3 December 2009 | PDF Download