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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

Your Face Tomorrow
1. Fever and Spear

Javier Marías

general information | review summaries | our review | links | about the author

To purchase Your Face Tomorrow: 1. Fever and Spear

Title: Your Face Tomorrow: 1. Fever and Spear
Author: Javier Marías
Genre: Novel
Written: 2002 (Eng. 2005)
Length: 387 pages
Original in: Spanish
Availability: Your Face Tomorrow: Fever and Spear - US
Tu rostro mañana: Fiebre y lanza - US
Your Face Tomorrow: Fever and Spear - UK
Your Face Tomorrow: Fever and Spear - Canada
Your Face Tomorrow: Fever and Spear - India
Ton visage demain: Fièvre et Lance - France
Dein Gesicht morgen: Fieber und Lanze - Deutschland
Il tuo volto domani: Febbre e lancia - Italia
Tu rostro mañana: Fiebre y lanza - España
  • Volume one of the Your Face Tomorrow-trilogy
  • Spanish title: Tu rostro mañana: Fiebre y lanza
  • Translated by Margaret Jull Costa

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Our Assessment:

B+ : intriguing, but doesn't get very far (yet ?)

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
FAZ C 6/10/2004 Wolfgang Schneider
The Independent . 13/5/2004 Guy Mannes-Abbott
Independent on Sunday A+ 5/6/2005 Tim Martin
London Rev. of Books . 2/6/2005 Lorna Scott Fox
Neue Zürcher Zeitung A 5/10/2004 Kersten Knipp
Rev. of Contemp. Fiction . Summer/2005 Pedro Ponce
Scotland on Sunday A 22/5/2005 John Burnside
Sunday Telegraph . 12/6/2005 Benjamin Markovits
Sunday Times . 5/6/2005 John Spurling
TLS . 20/5/2005 Martin Beagles
Die Welt D 28/8/2004 Fritz J. Raddatz

  Review Consensus:

  No consensus -- some think it's great, some don't take to it at all

  From the Reviews:
  • "Jetzt sucht Marías seine Souveränität darin, daß er fast ganz auf Handlung verzichtet. Mit der Konsequenz, daß die Gedanken nun oft wie private Versponnenheiten wirken, weil ihnen die Anschauung und Exemplifizierung fehlen. (...) Aber aufs Ganze gesehen wird die Lektüre zur Enttäuschung, nachdem man bis zur Mitte des Buches mit großen, aber aufgeschobenen Erwartungen weitergelesen hat." - Wolfgang Schneider, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

  • "Although Marias sincerely champions Ian Fleming here, his own writing is a powerful antidote to the plot-addled, quick-payback product so dominant in British publishing. Marias, often described as Anglophile, is in fact fascinated with the leavings of British life -- maverick writers like John Gawsworth, who flared brightly before dying destitute. He's also acute on British manners. (...) Marias is one of the best minds in fiction today. His is an experiential kind of writing, a thinking on the page, unlike anything else now. In Your Face Tomorrow, it produces another work of urgent originality." - Guy Mannes-Abbott, The Independent

  • "Discursive yet focused, expository yet oblique, Marías's style is like nothing any English writer has produced. He has a gift for the wickedly comic set-piece, but he slips so effortlessly between tones and registers that these sit side-by-side with passages of the most chilling heartlessness. And just as he seems incapable of writing a thoughtless or throwaway sentence, so Margaret Jull Costa earns her place in translator's heaven with a seamless and subtle rendering of what must be nightmarishly difficult Spanish prose." - Tim Martin, Independent on Sunday

  • "It's a lumpy, unblended mixture of Marías's well-known biography, personal gripes about society (better expressed in his journalism for the Sunday supplement of El País), and historical or literary concerns, with fictional ingredients that look thin or preposterous by comparison." - Lorna Scott Fox, London Review of Books

  • "Der Gedanke als Klang: Marias ist ein Virtuose dieses Klangs, und zwar ein derart vollendeter, dass der Roman den Wunsch nach Handlung gar nicht erst aufkommen lässt. Dein Gesicht morgen ist ein wunderbares "livre sur rien", ist betörende Wortkunst, die den Leser nicht mehr loslässt. Verwaist und an den Rand gedrängt findet sich hier die Story." - Kersten Knipp, Neue Zürcher Zeitung

  • "The overall effect recalls the cerebral play of Borges, the dark humor of Pynchon, and the meditative lyricism of Proust." - Pedro Ponce, Review of Contemporary Fiction

  • "In this brilliant dark novel, Marías has taken a central philosophical concern and set it before us in a new light, at once magical and terrifying in its implications for what we most value: for love, for justice and for the belief that we are who we say we are, when we think we are being honest." - John Burnside, Scotland on Sunday

  • "This novel is all diversion. Marías circles his subject not so much like a shark narrowing in on its prey as one hoping to conjure it out of thin water, and it is to the credit of the book that a fish, of some kind, seems to appear by the end." - Benjamin Markovits, Sunday Telegraph

  • "(F)or the most part this is an intriguing and audacious experiment (dexterously translated by Margaret Jull Costa) in turning language back on itself as its own untrustworthy betrayer. I look forward to the next volume." - John Spurling, Sunday Times

  • "Ultimately, everything in this hauntingly singular book hangs on the author's ability to provoke trains of new thought through meticulous passages of fluent, sophisticated reflection. To some, it will seem slow and impenetrable; others will see its tireless tracing of one man's thought processes as further evidence that Javier Marías is well on the road to Stockholm." - Martin Beagles, Times Literary Supplement

  • "Es ist anämisch. Er hat wunderbare Gedanken -- etwa über die verstreichende Zeit, das Alter --, aber er pappt sie farblosen Sprechpuppen an. Es gibt in diesem knapp 500-Seiten-Roman nicht einen einzigen Menschen, dem er Leben einhaucht; selbst der Erzähler, ein in London lebender Spanier, anfangs Akademiker, dann in nebulöser Agentensphäre tätig, bleibt so blass wie uninteressant. (...) Was hier vorliegt, ist kein geformtes Kunstwerk. Es ist ein Kaleidoskop beliebiger Splitter, sie fügen sich bei einer Drehung zu einem aparten Bild, bei der nächsten Drehung fallen sie scheppernd auseinander. Scherben allemal." - Fritz J. Raddatz, Die Welt

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Fever and Spear is the first part of a planned trilogy, Your Face Tomorrow (the second part is already available in Spanish, the third is -- at this time -- still in the works), It is narrated by a Spaniard named Jaime Deza (also called Jacobo, Jacques, Jack, etc.), who has led a varied career, as teacher, publisher, translator, and who, when the novel begins, works for BBC Radio in London. Divided into two parts -- yes, Fever and Spear -- this first volume of the trilogy basically covers how Deza is recruited by a British intelligence service outfit and then some of the work he does for that organisation.
       The most prominent other figure in the novel is Sir Peter Wheeler, a mentor of sorts to Deza, an Oxford Hispanist. Wheeler invites Deza to his home, and a dinner party there becomes -- as Deza only realises later -- a sort of test, to see whether Deza has the observational powers and instincts required for the secret service work they'd like him to do. Also at the dinner is Bertram Tupra, for whom Deza eventually goes to work (having passed the test).
       Fever and Spear isn't much of a cloak and dagger novel. Deza's duties, when he finally starts working for the secret service, mainly involve translating and sharing his impressions of conversations and interrogations. There's little menace or sense of danger -- and what there is (Deza's impression that he is being followed, for example) remains, for now, fairly harmless. Among the most intriguing secrets are those surrounding the Spanish Civil War (and Wheeler's role there), a long-past conflict that, like World War II, still overshadows the present of these characters.
       Fever and Spear is a meditative novel, with Deza (and also Wheeler) extemporising at considerable length on matters such as trust and silence and the dangers of any communication. Deza begins his account with the observation (or warning ?):

     One should never tell anyone anything or give information or pass on stories or make people remember beings who have never existed or trodden the earth or traversed the world, or who, having done so, are now almost safe in uncertain, one-eyed oblivion.
       Nevertheless, he proceeds to do most of these things, and if he doesn't exactly spill his guts he is (or at least appears to be) fairly forthcoming. Recounting seems a means for him to try, again, to understand some puzzling things, a way of trying to work things out. But telling is also a matter of trust, and he has his doubts that anyone can be trusted: confidences are almost inevitably betrayed. Silence is the only safe course. Parenthetically he notes:
     (Keeping silent, erasing, suppressing, cancelling and having, in the past, remained silent too: that is the world's great, unachievable ambition
       A lengthy section late in the novel focusses on the campaign in the Second World War against "careless talk" in Britain, where everyone was warned against revealing any information that might be of use to the enemy -- because you never knew who might be the enemy. No one was to be trusted -- and it also led to communication itself fundamentally changing:
Many learned to say things without really saying them, and became accustomed to that.
       (Deza observes that in Franco's Spain much the same thing happened.)
       The book is about the need to keep secrets and yet the inevitability of revealing them. "Life is not recountable", Wheeler tells Deza, but the book focusses on these attempts to get at the crux of lives and people (something Deza appears to have a talent for). The title of the trilogy comes from Deza's own special ability -- and his frustration at the unknowable and uncertain, and untrustworthy:
How can I not know today your face tomorrow, the face that is there already or is being forged beneath the face you show me or beneath the mask you are wearing, and which you will only show me when I am least expecting it ?
       Marias allows his characters to wax philosophical, and almost all who figure at all prominently are mind-men rather than men of action. Indeed, remarkably little actually happens in Fever and Spear -- but Marías cloaks enough in mystery to make for a sense of suspense throughout. (A cliffhanger ending -- an unidentified woman comes to visit Deza in the middle of the night --- also leaves the reader even more curious as to: what next ?)
       Wordy and in no rush to move ahead, Fever and Spear isn't your typical spy-thriller, but what there is is tantalizing enough. Occasionally, Marias (and his characters) seem to get sidetracked (and carried away there), but on the whole it's an entertaining and often clever read. It's unclear where the trilogy is going, but there's promise enough here to leave the reader eager for more.

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Your Face Tomorrow: 1. Fever and Spear: Reviews: Javier Marías: Other books by Javier Marías under review: Books about Javier Marías under review: Other books of interest under review:
  • See Index of Spanish literature under review

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About the Author:

       Spanish author Javier Marías lived 1951 to 2022.

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© 2005-2023 the complete review

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