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"Reply" de Ken Grimwood . Time-traveling

Notas: Mejor libro sobre el viaje en el tiempo y otras tantas cosas), es una pena que el escritor casi no haya escrito nada más y lo que escribió sea inconseguible incluso en inglés. En realidad no es viaje en el tiempo propiamente dicho, Jeff Winston es un cuarenton que muere de un infarto mientras habla por teléfono con su mujer. Lo extraño es que se despierta con dieciocho años, de nuevo en su primer año de universidad y con toda la vida por delante. Sin comprender porqué pasó lo que pasó Jeff intenta aprovechar su nueva oportunidad, también aprovechandose de sus conocimientos del futuro para hacerse millonario apostando.  Jeff construye una nueva vida, tan exitosa como la anterior fue un fracaso. Pero el mismo día, a la misma hora... todo se acaba y...vuelve a empezar.

"Reply" crea multiples universos paralelos, mejores y peores partiendo de la vida de un hombre que puede elegir. Como Jeff, el lector descubre la grandeza humana en el arte, la filosofia, la música y la cultura en general. "Reply", como todas las buenas historias, es una oportunidad de vivir vidas que están fuera de nuestro alcance pero que no por eso tenemos que dejar de experimentar.

Appropriately, the author died of a heart attack at 53(Jeff dies at 43) while he was writing a sequel to "Reply".

Primera lectura: 2005, Figueres (en castellano).

Second read: 26-11-2007.(in English)

Third read: 23.01.2011

[Spoiler (click to open)]

New words: comped

Quotes with inevitable spoilers:

All Jeff could see, though, was her incredible youthfulness, a vernal tenderness that went beyond the fact that she was still in her teens. Girls—women—her age in the eighties didn't look like this, he realized. They simply weren't this young, this innocent; hadn't been since the days of Janis Joplin, and certainly weren't in the aftermath of Madonna. PP. 27

When it was done, Jeff stood staring at the sodden wreckage, his breath coming in great gulps of exhaustion and anguish. Then he glanced up, and saw Mrs. Rendell standing in the path on the other side of the stream. The face that he'd adored for so many months was an expressionless mask as she looked at him. Their eyes locked for several seconds, and then Jeff bolted.

He assumed he'd be expelled; but nothing was ever said about the incident. Jeff never sat at the Rendells' table again. He avoided seeing either of them as much as he was able. She remained unfailingly polite, even pleasant, to him in class, and at the end of the year he received an A in French.

He tossed a pebble into the lazy creek, watched it bounce off a rock and plop into the water. Destroying the bridge had been a vile, unforgivable act. Yet Mrs. Rendell had forgiven him, protected him, had even had the good sense not to shame him further by expressing her forgiveness in words. She must have understood the lonely, mindless fury that had led him to such an extreme, must have recognized that in his childlike way he had seen her love for her husband and baby as betrayal of the deepest sort.

And it had been, in Jeff s crush-distorted view of things. It had been his introductory encounter with the death of hope.

Now he knew what had drawn him back here to the school, to this quiet clearing in the woods of his youth. He must again face that emptiness of infinite loss, but this time on a more complex level. This time he knew he could not crack beneath the weight of the intolerable. There were no more bridges to destroy; he must learn to go forward, and to build, despite the torment of his daughter's death, of knowing what could never be. PP. 84

The movie was everything the storekeeper had claimed, and far more. Even to Jeff's eyes it was years ahead of its time in theme, look, special effects; like an undersea version of Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey, yet with the warmth and humanity of Truffaut at his best.

The film began with an elegiac illumination of the ancient bond between humans and dolphins, then extended that mythic connection to include a philosophical race of extraterrestrials who had long ago established contact with the intelligent mammals of earth's oceans. That race, according to the plot, had appointed the Cetaceans as benevolent caretakers of humanity until such time as mankind was ready to be welcomed to the galactic family. But near the end of the twentieth century, the dolphins learned that the mentors of Cygnus IV, whose return had been awaited for millenia, had been destroyed by an interstellar catastrophe. The dolphins then made their true nature and their great history known to humanity, in a moment of simultaneous exhilaration and deep mourning. For the first time, this planet became genuinely whole, a linked community of minds on land and undersea … yet more alone in the bleakness of space than ever, with earth's unmet benefactors having vanished for eternity.

The movie expertly conveyed, with sophistication and a rare cinematic depth of insight, the unbearable irony of ultimate hopes lost even as they are realized. Jeff found himself moved to tears of poignant rapture along with the rest of the audience, his years of self-imposed exile and detachment shattered in the space of two hours.

And it was new, all of it. Jeff couldn't possibly have remained unaware of an artistic achievement this magnificent, this successful in every sense, had it appeared within either of his previous replays.

He read the list of credits with almost as much astonishment as the film itself had generated: Directed by Steven Spielberg … Written and Produced by Pamela Phillips … Creative Consultant and Special Effects Supervisor, George Lucas. PP. 116


"At one time or another," he said, "I've imagined just about every possible explanation, no matter how bizarre, for what's been happening to me—to us. Time warps, black holes, God gone berserk … I mentioned the people who think Mount Shasta is populated by aliens; well, I once had myself convinced this was all some sort of experiment being conducted by an extraterrestrial race. The same idea must have occurred to you once or twice; I could see elements of it in Starsea. And maybe that's the truth—maybe we're the sentient rats who have to find our way out of this maze. Or maybe there's a nuclear holocaust at the end of 1988, and the collective psychic will of all the men and women who have ever lived has chosen this way to keep it from spelling an absolute end to humanity. I don't know.

"And that's the point: I can't know, and I've finally grown to accept my inability to understand it, or to change it."

"That doesn't mean you can't keep wondering," she said, her face close to his.

"Of course not, and I do. I wonder about it constantly. But I'm no longer consumed by that quest for answers, haven't been for a long time. Our dilemma, extraordinary though it is, is essentially no different than that faced by everyone who's ever walked this earth: We're here, and we don't know why. We can philosophize all we want, pursue the key to that secret along a thousand different paths, and we'll never be any closer to unlocking it.

"We've been granted an incomparable gift, Pamela; a gift of life, of awareness and potential greater than anyone has ever known before. Why can't we just accept it for what it is?"

"Someone—Plato, I think—once said, 'The unexamined life is not worth living.' "

"True. But a life too closely scrutinized will lead to madness, if not suicide."

She looked down at their footprints in the otherwise-pristine snow. "Or simply failure," she said quietly.

"You haven't failed. You made an attempt to draw the world together, and in the process you've created magnificent works of art. The effort, the creation—those acts stand on their own."

"Until I die again, perhaps. Until the next replay. Then it all vanishes."

Jeff shook his head, his arm tightly around her shoulders. "Only the products of your work will disappear. The struggle, the devotion you put into your endeavors … That's where the value truly lies, and will remain: within you."

Her eyes filled with tears. "So much loss, though, so much pain; the children … "

"All life includes loss. It's taken me many, many years to learn to deal with that, and I don't expect I'll ever be fully resigned to it. But that doesn't mean we have to turn away from the world, or stop striving for the best that we can do and be. We owe that much to ourselves, at least, and we deserve whatever measure of good may come of it."

He kissed her tear-streaked cheeks, then kissed her lightly on the lips. To the west, a pair of hawks circled slowly in the sky above Devil's Canyon.

"Have you ever been soaring?" Jeff asked.

"You mean in a sailplane, a glider? No. No, I never have."

He put both arms around her waist, hugged her close. "We will," he whispered into the softness of her tawny hair. "We'll soar together." PP. 141

And with the gentle summer rain in the background, she told them the story of Starsea, of the common bond of loving hope that linked the intelligent creatures of the earth, the sea, the stars … and of the catastrophic loss that ultimately brought humanity to the sorrowfully exalted moment of first full contact with its ocean kin.

The children fidgeted a bit at first, but as the tale wore on they listened with increasing fascination while their mother verbally recreated the film that had once won her worldwide acclaim and had brought her together with Jeff. When she had finished, Kimberly was weeping openly, but with a glow of otherworldly rapture in her young eyes; Christopher had turned his face away to the window and didn't speak for a long time.

Just before dusk, a single shaft of sunlight broke through the overcast sky, and Jeff and Pamela stood outside on the porch to watch it slowly fade. The children chose to stay inside; Kimberly had borrowed some of Pamela's watercolors, and was painting images of stars and dolphins, while Christopher was absorbed in one of John Lilly's books.

The shifting light played vividly across the rain-soaked meadow, the billion droplets beaded on the fresh-cut grass shimmering like unearthly jewels in a field of green fire. Jeff stood quietly behind Pamela, his arms around her waist, her hair against his cheek. Just before the light failed, he whispered something in her ear, a line from Blake: " 'To see a world in a Grain of Sand,' " he murmured, " 'and a Heaven in a Wild flower.' "

She pressed her hands to his, softly completed the quote: " 'Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand,' " she said, " 'and Eternity in an hour.' " PP. 248

"I know. You don't have to say any more."

He set the phone down gently, stared at it for a long time. It was possible they'd been through too much together, had seen and known and shared more than they could ever measure up to in this world. Gaining and losing, taking hold and letting go …

Pamela had once said that they had "only made things different, not better." That wasn't wholly true. Sometimes their actions had had positive results for them and the world at large, sometimes they'd been negative, most often they'd been neither. Each lifetime had been different, as each choice is always different, unpredictable in its outcome or effect. Yet those choices had to be made, Jeff thought. He'd learned to accept the potential losses, in the hope that they would be outweighed by the gains. The only certain failure, he knew, and the most grievous, would be never to risk at all.

Jeff looked up and saw his own reflection in the dark smoked glass of his bookshelves: flecks of gray in his hair, faint puffy bags beneath his eyes, thin lines beginning to crease his forehead. They'd never be smoothed out again, those marks of age; they would only deepen and proliferate, new hieroglyphs of lost youth written ineradicably across his face and body with each passing year.

And yet, he mused, the years themselves would all be fresh and new, an ever-changing panoply of unforeseen events and sensations that had been denied him until now. New films and plays, new technological developments, new music—Christ, how he , yearned to hear a song, any song, that he had never heard before!

The unfathomable cycle in which he and Pamela had been caught had proved to be a form of confinement, not release. They had let themselves be trapped in the deceptive luxury of focusing always on future options; just as Lydia Randall, in the blind hopefulness of her youth, had assumed life's choices would forever be available to her. "We have so much time," Jeff heard her say, and then his own repeated words to Pamela echoed anew in his brain: "Next time … next time."

Now everything was different. This wasn't "next time," and there would be no more of that; there was only this time, this sole finite time of whose direction and outcome Jeff knew absolutely nothing. He would not waste, or take for granted, a single moment of it.

Jeff stood up and walked out of his office into the busy newsroom. There was a large, U-shaped central desk at which Gene Collins, the midday editor, sat surrounded by computer terminals flashing the moment-by-moment output of AP, UPI, and Reuters, television monitors tuned to CNN and all three networks, a communications console linked to the station's reporters in the field and their own network's correspondents in Los Angeles, Beirut, Tokyo …

Jeff felt it flow through him, the electric freshness of the once more unpredictable world out there. One of the news writers hurried past, rushing a green bulletin sheet into the air booth. Something important had happened—perhaps something disastrous, perhaps some discovery of surpassing wonder and benefit to humankind. Whatever it was, Jeff knew that it would be as new to him as it would be to everyone else.

He'd talk to Linda tonight. Though he wasn't sure what he might say, he owed her, and himself, at least that much. He wasn't sure of anything anymore, and that realization thrilled him with anticipation. He might try again with Linda, might someday rejoin Pamela, might change careers. The only thing that mattered was that the quarter century or so he had remaining would be his life, to live out as he chose and in his own best interests. Nothing took precedence over that: not work, not friendships, not relationships with women. Those were all components of his life, and valuable ones, but they did not define it or control it. That was up to him, and him alone.

The possibilities, Jeff knew, were endless. PP. 270-271




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