Jacques Deza is a Spaniard who returns to England after separating from his wife.
In Oxford, where he was a teacher, he visits an old friend of his, Sir
Peter Wheeler, whom he met by means of another friend, now dead, Toby
Rylands. Sir Peter, in turn, presents him to a curious person: Bertram
Tupra, who was a student of Toby Rylands and who today is head of a
section of the British Intelligence Service created during the Second
The function of this group is to transmit reports to the government on
topics as sensitive as: the confidence a Latin-American conspirator is
capable of inspiring, the probable loyalty of a wife or the possibility
that a rock-star would, under certain circumstances, end his own life -
or that of others. Jacques Deza leaves his position at the BBC to
become an advisor for this organization.
The prose of Marías wraps long sentences and hyperbatons in a more
torrid embrace than ever in his reiterations, which act like literay
bullets to alert the sleepy linguistic conscience of the
television-watching reader of the XXIst century.
It seems to me, the principal defect of this book is an identical voice
that underlies every character, of whom all, even if they do not share
the same point of view as that of the narrator, suffer from identical
prosody, rhythm and verbal clichés. It marks the return of Marías's
speculation on the paradox according to which our deceased ancestors
end up being younger than we are; a find which it should not be
necessary to abuse in more than one book; less still several times in
each of them.
Finally, there is a slightly awkward way of introducing comments made
by the narrator when he cannot avoid interrupting the monologues of his
speakers with a quotation from Shakespeare, Cervantes or Churchill
which, he explains, are the words of his innermost thoughts or those he
uses speaking to himself.
The dialogues in this book have, as I have already pointed out, the
skillfulness of those of the Greek philosophers 26 centuries ago, every
character seemingly turned into the crutch of the discourse of its
Madrid. Alfaguara, 2002. 475 pages.