gershon hepner

Rookie - 10 Points (5 3 38 / leipzig)

Your Face Tomorrow - Poem by gershon hepner

What will your face tomorrow be,
after poison and farewell?
Is it one you’ll let me see
when they have let me out of hell,
or will your face change with the times,
as mine will surely do, and will
you resonate again like rhymes
I’ll be, like Onan, forced to spill
like seed on the unfriendly ground,
and will it hide from me in sorrow,
until we hear again the sound
of laughter, once it is tomorrow?
I know the answer, holding fast
to you as if all the time had passed.

This near-sonnet was inspired by Larry Rohter’s review of the first part of Javier Marías’s trilogy, “Your Face Tomorrow, ” which was preceded by “Poison, Shadow and Farewell” (“Interpretation of Language, Lives and Spies, ” NYT, December 25,2009) :
For the best part of a decade the Spanish novelist Javier Marías occupied himself with “Your Face Tomorrow, ” an ambitious, sprawling project that became both a commercial and critical success across Europe. The third and presumably final volume, “Poison, Shadow and Farewell, ” has finally appeared in English, and for better or worse, it is largely of a piece with the 700 pages that preceded it. On the surface “Your Face Tomorrow” is a strange hybrid. It is almost as if Henry James or Marcel Proust decided to write a novel set in John le Carré’s world. There are occasional bursts of action and much clandestine skulduggery. But “Poison, Shadow and Farewell, ” like the two previous volumes, “Fever and Spear” and “Dance and Dream” is essentially a rumination on several of the Really Big Themes that tend to captivate great writers: love and death, power and violence, and, above all, betrayal, loyalty and deceit, both personal and at the level of the state. “Your Face Tomorrow, ” whose title comes from Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Part 2, is not a trilogy. It is a single novel that because of its bulk has been published in three parts, so a reader starting with “Poison, Shadow and Farewell” is certain to be puzzled by many of the final volume’s references, characters and themes as Mr. Marías tries to tie things up. In Spain, where Mr. Marías,58, also writes a column for El País, the leading newspaper, his publisher did the logical thing and reissued “Your Face Tomorrow” last month as a single volume. That is a step that sooner or later ought to be emulated here. The protagonist of all three books is Deza, a middle-aged Spaniard called Jaime by his estranged wife but known to others variously as Jack, Jacobo, Jacques, Diego and Iago. At the start Deza has just left Madrid, fleeing his crumbling marriage, for London, where he is recruited from a job at the BBC to offer “translations of persons or interpretations of lives, ” working in “a building without a name” for what he believes, at least initially, to be a particularly shadowy branch of British intelligence…
Mr. Marías is a writer of enormous erudition, and he is not shy about demonstrating it. At various points in “Your Face Tomorrow” he offers disquisitions on topics ranging from medieval swords and the best sources of bespoke shoes to the London underworld of the 1960s. Shakespeare, Cervantes and other towering literary figures are constant references, and though Mr. Marías often treats popular culture with disdain, he doesn’t stint on that count either: Henry Mancini and the country music ballad “The Streets of Laredo” both figure in the plot, as do the B-movie bombshell Jayne Mansfield, her breasts and her grisly death. Mr. Marías spent parts of his childhood in the United States while his father was in exile from Franco’s fascism and is essentially bilingual. As a younger man he had a parallel career as a translator; his credits include renderings of “Tristram Shandy” and works by Conrad, Faulkner, Nabokov and Updike into Spanish. That background clearly influences “Your Face Tomorrow.”


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Poem Submitted: Friday, December 25, 2009

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