YFTS: Marias on Terrorism

In light of our ongoing discussion of history, politics, and terror in Your Face Tomorrow, I found this 2004 editorial by Marias very interesting. It was published in The New York Times just after the train terror bombing that many claimed “swung” the Spanish elections, an assertion that Marias clearly has no tolerance for:

After the March 11 train bombings in Madrid, the Spanish population immediately perceived two things clearly: First, that Prime Minister José María Aznar’s administration was indirectly responsible for the horror, which would not have occurred if Mr. Aznar had not been so eager to promote his alliance with Tony Blair and George Bush. Second, that his administration had lied about the probable authorship of the attacks – or concealed or delayed the truth, which under such tragic circumstances amounts to the same thing – for political advantage. The problem with such “perceptions” is that, accurate or erroneous, true or false, there’s no way to uproot them from people’s minds. Such convictions are of little use in the eyes of the law, but they are useful when it comes to deciding whom to vote for in a general election. That, and nothing but that, was what happened in Spain.

Marias also goes on to inform citizens of the U.S. that the war on terror isn’t really a war. An obvious point, but perhaps one that still needed (and needs) to be made. At any rate, I can understand where Marias is coming from. Anyone who reads his evocation of the nastier aspects of the wars of the ’30s and ’40s in Your Face Tomorrow will comprehend why he loses his patience with people who would compare our current “war footing” to that of Britain and Spain:

Here in Spain, we don’t feel as if we are at war, because we aren’t. And neither are the inhabitants of the United States, however vociferously many Americans may insist that they are. War is something else entirely. No semi-normal life can be led while a war is going on. The Madrilenians who lived through the siege of their city from 1936 to 1939 know that very well. The survivors of the daily bombardments of London during the Second World War know it, too. And those Americans who participated in that war know it also.

The editorial is a little dated at this point (no one beyond some diehard Glenn Beck fans and Jonah Goldberg still believes we were or are “at war” in a conventional sense, do they?), but it does provide an interesting window into where Marias’ head was at in the middle of writing Your Face Tomorrow.


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Deza is all over this sentence: “Second, that his administration had lied about the probable authorship of the attacks – or concealed or delayed the truth, which under such tragic circumstances amounts to the same thing – for political advantage.”

I thought this style of writing might be special to YFTS, but this strange way of constantly sifting through similar words (lied, concealed, delayed) to get closer to the actual meaning seems to be a feature in his essays as well. Does he do this in his other fiction?

Hi Neil,
He does it a lot, period. It’s an integral, one might say blood-deep, aspect of his style, as inimitable and inimical to him as one’s fingerprints or DNA code. However, he bends this tendency, to my mind, to vastly different effects in some of the novels. They all sound or read superficially like YFTS in some ways, but in other ways, they don’t seem boring or repetitious or like he can only rewrite the same book over and over again. And his openings reveal just what I’m saying, I believe. Here’s the first sentence of Tomorrow in the Battle Think on Me:

“I did not want to know but I have since come to know that one of the girls, when she wasn’t a girl anymore and hadn’t long been back from her honeymoon, went into the bathroom, stood in front of the mirror, unbuttoned her blouse, took off her bra and aimed her own father’s gun at her heart, her father at the time was in the dining room with the other members of the family and three guests.”

Here’s the first sentence of A Heart So White:
“No one ever expects that they might one day find themselves with a dead woman in their arms, a woman whose face they will never see again, but whose name they will remember.”

Similar obsessions, images, and themes return in each book–women’s legs, spying or voyeurism, time, betrayl–yet in each distinct case they were are woven with strands of different color and aspect.

If you’ve been enjoying YFTS, I would STRONGLY encourage you to make your way through the rest of the novels that have been translated, including the recent novella Bad Nature, or With Elvis in Mexico, which is short and stunningly, arrestingly awesome.

Thanks Richard. I’ll check “With Elvis in Mexico” out.

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