Saturday, October 21, 2006

On finding out

I've been reading Javier Marias' novel Tomorrow in the battle think on me (though I've been reading it in German, from the library). The novel is hard work, primarily because of its style - not that it is particularly extravagant in its choice of words or metre, Marias is no Proust nor for that matter an F.Scott Fitzgerald nor even less a Henry James, but he does get wrapped up in subclauses, like this, or even like this, which, while never actually leaving the subject of the sentence (I hope you haven't forgotten how the sentence began?) wander all around it, exploring interesting, or possibly interesting, tangents, some of which threaten to become sentences in their own right before finally winding up in a exciting burst of continuous narrative, which, disappointingly, reveals itself to be not the end after all, but then can unexpectedly recover to go on for seemingly near-infinite length: most of the novel is written in page-and-a-half long paragraphs of two or, at most, three sentences; mind you Proust's sentences were, at least in the English translation I read, much longer - but like Proust the hard work of reading is rewarded by the quality of the tale. It's a fine read once you get into the long, loping, looping rhythm of the subclauses.

While reading, I've been pondering. The title recurs in the text every few pages, with variations: Tomorrow in the battle think on me, and may your sword fall blunted from your hand (my translation, bear in mind that I'm reading it in German...) I have been puzzling over this phrase, which is definitely very familiar but I just couldn't put my finger on it.

Until tonight, just a few minutes ago on page 285, our hero returned home late at night and turned on the TV to find a film in progress: late at night, a knight prays outside a tent; then cut to a different tent where the king lies awake and is visited by a succession of ghosts: a man, two boys, another man, a woman "and finally another man who shook his raised fists and demanded revenge."

At which I raised my fists and shouted "hooray" because I'd recognized the film - and with it identified the recurring title phrase. It's Shakespeare, Richard III, and the phrase "Tomorrow in the battle..." is the curse which the ghosts of his previous victims lay upon him one after the other.

I'm very happy to have identified the phrase and solved a minor mystery, though the greater mystery of the story itself remains to be resolved in the next 143 pages.

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2 Comments:

Blogger CarpeDM said...

Hmm. You'll have to let me know what you think of it. I'm hoping that it would be easy to find in English. It sounds somewhat interesting but not enough for me to use my pathetic high school German to try and translate.

October 23, 2006 at 11:12:00 PM GMT+2  
Blogger Rob said...

Edinburgh Libraries have it in English. I ahve added it to my list.

October 24, 2006 at 6:37:00 PM GMT+2  

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