After three months of post-election dysphoria, I find myself rereading Javier Marias’s mind-bendingly dark and revealing novel-in-three-volumes, Your Face Tomorrow (Tu rostro mañana, 2002–07). The subject is the nature of evil, how it’s cultivated, and the many uses to which it can be put. If that sounds daunting, let me quickly add that it’s nothing if not propulsively readable.
The story follows a young Spaniard, separated from his wife and adrift in London, who is recruited by MI6 for his unusual ability to read people. Gradually he is introduced to the secret history of our times—the real events behind the official account—and taught the skills essential to wielding power of any kind, personal, social, or political. We watch as he learns these techniques—disinformation, deep lying, intimidation, effecting a coup d’etat, destroying an enemy’s reputation, forcing people into exile—as well as the selective detachment necessary to put them into practice.
Needless to say, all these skills have been on continuous display in the Trump administration. They have also been adopted wholesale by the Republican Party and its rightward shock troops. And as Marias shows us so indelibly, once you understand how to do things this way, you never really go back to the old solutions. Power. It changes you. And probably not in the ways you think.
Ted Mooney is the author of several prize-winning novels, including Easy Travel to Other Planets and The Same River Twice. A former editor at Art in America, his essays have appeared in Granta and Esquire.
Your Face Tomorrow
His eyes were blue or grey depending on the light and he had long eyelashes, dense enough to be the envy of any woman and to be considered highly suspect by any man. His pale eyes had a mocking quality, even if this was not his intention—and his eyes were, therefore, expressive even when no expression was required—they were also rather warm or should I say appreciative, eyes that are never indifferent to what is there before them and which make anyone upon whom they fall feel worthy of curiosity, eyes whose very liveliness gave the immediate impression that they were going to get to the bottom of whatever being or object or landscape or scene they alighted upon.
How can someone not see, in the long term, that the person who will and does end up ruining us will indeed ruin us? How can you not sense or guess at their plotting, their machinations, their circular dance, not smell their hostility or breathe their despair, not notice their slow skulking, their leisurely, languishing waiting, and the inevitable impatience that they would have had to contain for who knows how many years? How can I not know today your face tomorrow, the face that is there already or is being forged beneath the face you show me or beneath the mask you are wearing.
One should never tell anyone anything or give information or pass on stories or make people remember beings who have never existed or trodden the earth or traversed the world, or who, having done so, are now almost safe in uncertain, one-eyed oblivion. Telling is almost always done as a gift, even when the story contains and injects some poison, it is also a bond, a granting of trust, and rare is the trust or confidence that is not sooner or later betrayed.
— Javier Marias (Your Face Tomorrow)
Recommended Reading: Ted Mooney's Pick
JOTPY Recommends: Start with Mooney's First Book
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Power ::: Marvin Pontiac
Your Face On Someone Else ::: Mallard
Always See Your Face ::: Love
Menfi (The Exile) ::: Rachid Taha