Having now finished the first volume of Javier Marias's Your Face Tomorrow (Fever and Spear), I think I can begin to voice an idea of what the ultimate objective of this work.
Obviously, it's a tale of observation. Covering a period of time that stretches from WWI to the present day, Marias has attempted to explain the modern psyche, how we approach each other as human beings, as feeling individuals, as selfish individuals, as observers. Most of us, as Marias argues, are not observers. His central figure is one, and he is surrounded by others like himself, a mentor he talks extensively with, and another he works under, and these relationships and how they are formed and their goals are the crux of the opening volume.
What I admire about YFT is that it is a work that is consumed with thought, it is a work that fully gives itself to the possibilities of literature as a unique medium, as extended meditations, not simply narrative (except it's as pure a narrative as you're likely to find), not a slave to plot. Marias seems aware of what he's doing, how it deviates from expectations most readers will have about what a book is supposed to do, and why many readers will shy away from YFT, even if it speaks the same language we all do. The narrative obsesses over language, over communication, knowingly, as the basis of all modern interaction, how it's been corrupted by increased self-importance, by a reluctance to question and simply to accept that things are as they are.
The first volume is an explanation and origin of this phenomenon. I cannot say what the next two volumes accomplish; that is what I am continuing to discover. I know now as I previously suspected, that this is an important work, a seminal work, not just for the author, but for literature, today, yesterday, and tomorrow. It's all about potential, human potential, what may happen, what humans can do if pressed. It's James Bond and Sherlock Holmes and Ishmael rolled into one.