YFTS: What About the Bosses?

Daniel Hartley has a highly worthwhile post on vol 1 of Your Face Tomorrow. Therein he brings up an excellent point that, I must admit, I had ignored until he mentioned it:

In Kafka’s The Trial K. is ensnared in a dark, deeply oppressive legal system of which he compulsively seeks the centre and means of escape. If Javier Marías’s Jacobo is anything to go by, then today we are just as ensnared as K. was, but without the desire to disentangle ourselves. He has no idea who he is working for, what they do, or why they do it, and yet nonetheless he goes to work, does his job, and goes home. When I read this passage I was instantly reminded of Mark Fisher’s description (in Capitalist Realism) of our current Weberian ‘iron cage’ nightmare – from which we are not even struggling to wake up. Do not all multinational corporations have the structure of this anonymous intelligence agency? We all go to work, give our best, and go home, ignorant of the vast networks of hidden tentacles along which my well-intended actions transform into acts of viciousness I could never have dreamed of in my little office, with the Monet reprint on the wall, the photo of my wife and daughter on the desk, and my favourite Hay Festival mug on the lever arch file.

And now for what I really really think the novel is ‘about’. These two previous points are important but accidental. Their essence lies in that they presented Marías with what I can only think to call a ‘framework-machine’ for producing those notorious sentences and mini-narratives. Everything points to this conclusion: the impersonal aura of the characters, the over-intellectualised nature of the whole text, the vague omnipresence of the intelligence agency, which means that literally anyone anywhere can become the trigger for a barrage of Javier’s finest phrases, the acts of interpretation which the narrator is called upon to perform: all of this is what the Russian formalists would have called the ‘motivation of the device’, the structure which gives Marías the excuse to produce those potentially limitless sentences (limitless because trying to mimic exactly the movements of consciousness in language is like trying to capture the whole of one’s head when stood between two mirrors – impossible and infinite).

And one begins to wonder why Wheeler and Deza are so sanguine about working for faceless government overlords . . . (though this is a question Deza explores to a certain, less-than-satisfying degree in his interview with Perez Nuix at the beginning of vol 2)


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In an attempt to understand Deza, I’ve been shooting arrows wildly in all kinds of different directions, just to see were they land. Wow. I think Daniel has really hit the target.

The post seems an accurate way to describe what Marias is up to, but I’m not sure how relevant that is to “all” of our lives. I work for a university, and am highly aware of what the university does (both good and bad), and I’m pretty sure most employees do too.

I have friends who work for Goldman and Monsanto, and they are as (perhaps more) aware of the problems of these companies as I am. Not that this is any better, morally, but they are quite “aware” of who it is they work for and what they do. The problem isn’t one of “hidden bosses” but of the powerful incentives of money and power, among other things.

And I’m not sure this is anything new, or anything to do with corporations, faceless or otherwise. Did Bob Cratchet care what Scrooge did to others, or was he happy to just be able to feed his family?

I was just reading Javier’s blog. He has mentioned about his book ‘A heart so white’ in his blog

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