Direct and transparent in some matters, elusive and devious in others… Each reader of Javier Marías will have his idea, his concept and his profile of one of the fundamental referents of Spanish literature in recent decades, and with this repertoire of views , assembling approaches and nuances, a total definition (or with the ambition of totality) of the character could be rehearsed. A few hours after his death, in the summary from a neutral and urgent, journalistic and concrete angle, we propose an approach to the author based on these keys:
1. Young Marias
Son of the philosopher Julián Marías (who was a disciple of Ortega y Gasset), Javier Marías stood out for his intellectual and creative precocitywhich became evident with the publication of his first novel, The domains of the wolfat age 19, followed by Skyline Crossing. For a long time he was known in intellectual circles as “the young Marias”. Aesthetic and intellectual matters appeared as priorities from the first hour on the radar of his interests and vocations. He received a liberal education at the Colegio Estudio de Madrid and He graduated in Philosophy and Letters (branch of English Philology) at the Complutense University. The young Marías exposed very soon his signs and capacities, the coordinates by which he deserved to be called a writer from so early on.
2. The family environment
The Franco regime prohibited the Republican Julián Marías from teaching at Spanish universities, for which he had to go into exile. Therefore, Javier Marias lived part of his childhood in the United States. Julián Marías was the victim of an accusation that is at the base of his son’s trilogy your face tomorrow. The writer grew up in a bookish environment with a liberal education, in contact with other languages and with intellectuals and writers like Jorge Guillén, with easy and varied access to works of literature and philosophy. His childhood and his environment were fundamental in his literary decantation and in the definition of his personality and his thought.
3. Anglo-Saxon influence
Faced with the majority Francophile bias of Spanish writers of his generation, Javier Marías revealed a robust penchant for Anglo-Saxon culture. translated to sterne (Tristram Shandy, with which he won the Fray Luis de León translation award), Hardy, Stevenson, Conrad and Ashbery, among others. He admired William Faulkner, Henry James (whose long-paragraph prose he takes note of…) and Thomas Browne. In the 1980s she taught in England (Oxford University) and the United States (Wellesley College).
4. Master Benet
One of the most relevant figures in the literary and intellectual evolution of Marías is John Benet, whom he met at the beginning of his career and whose positions and literary ideas (anti-realism, long-phrased writing…) had a powerful influence on him. In a text about Benet that can be read on his website, he states: “I am not exaggerating when I say that He has been one of the five most important people in my life.. (…) he discovered defects in my novels; Even today, when writing, I sometimes withdraw an adjective or avoid a type of phrase because I remember that he criticized me once, and with good reason. (…) his work, I have said on many occasions, seems to me to be the most important of the second half of the 20th century in Spain”.
5. A personal dandyism
His clothing, his expression, his collection of books, his cigarette (it was an irreducible smoker) composed a recognizable image of Javier Marías, an elegant and literary sobriety that was compatible with a general attitude toward life and others more prone, perhaps due to shyness, to distance. He was more expansive in his literature than in his public exposure. There was something elitist in his posture and a lot of uncertainty in his gaze.
6. The Discreet Man
Marías was not a lover of what others understand as literary social life. It wasn’t easy to get to him. For some questions he was a man of distances and barriers. Among his famous friends, Arturo Pérez-Reverte and Agustín Díaz Yanes. In the last two decades his partner was the editor Carme Lopez Mercaderwhom he married in 2018.
7. The clash with Herralde
In Marías’s biography, one of the harshest chapters is his controversy with the editor Jorge Herralde, who, as head of Anagram It was fundamental in his literary beginnings. The breakup, in the mid-90s, was violent and notorious, with crossed accusations, and left scars on both sides. Since then, Marías published her works in Alfaguara.
8. Irreducible opinionator
Marías conquered many of his readers (and also many of his detractors) with his articles in The weekly country. He did not shy away from controversy. Sincere and direct, he was critical of the Spanish political reality, with the works and the noise of Madrid, with the Church or with the poetry of Gloria Fuertes. For some, free and lucid opinion; for others, provocative and simplifying. In any case, he had his own view of reality and did not mind getting into puddles.
9. International success
The works of Javier Marías have been translated into 40 languages and published in 50 countries. The English Penguin imprint added seven of his books to its collection of modern classics. Marías received numerous awards in Germany, France and Italy, as well as the José Donoso in Chile and the Rómulo Gallegos in Venezuela. In recent years her name sounded among the Nominees for the Nobel Prize in Literature.
10. The movie buff
Cinema was very present in the life and work of Javier Marías. His father was a film critic, a job inherited by his brother Miguel, a benchmark of film criticism in Spain in recent decades. Besides, he was nephew and cousin of directors Jesús Franco and Ricardo Franco. in his book where everything has happened collects his main articles on the seventh art, published in various newspapers and magazines. He particularly enjoyed Hollywood classicism. But also from the cinema some dislike came to him: it is inevitable to remember his confrontation with Elías and Gracia Querejeta for the adaptation of all the souls (The Last Voyage of Robert Rylands), which ended up in court.
11. The Publisher
In the year 2000, Javier Marías created the Reino de Redonda publishing house, an expression of his literary tastes and preferences and from which, as sovereign (heir to a unique dynasty that began with MP Shield), granted noble titles (to Pérez-Reverte, Fernando Savater, Díaz Yanes and Claudio Magris, among others). Its catalog includes Wallace Stevens, WH Auden, Faulkner, Michael Powell… The objective of the publisher was, in the words of Marías himself, “to recover wonderful forgotten books and offer some new ones that should be known. And, of course, take care of them everyone equally”.
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Javier Marías in eleven keys