While preparing my Spanish classes last week for my undergraduate students at the University of Oklahoma I received the news on my cell phone that Javier Marías had died. My immediate reaction was to search for the news in the hope that it was a fake news of the many that abound on the internet and that kill famous people. However, the news began to appear in various media. Javier Marías, the king of Redonda (as Juan Villoro has nicknamed him), had died.
It is difficult to describe the mourning and pain that one can feel for a person whom, although they admire, they do not know in person. But from the day of her death until today I have not stopped thinking about the tragedy that Marías’s death entails for Castilian letters. My approach to Marías dates back many years, when I read for the first time Heart so white that novel that has been mentioned so many times in recent days, I continued with That’s how bad things begin, Berta Isla, among others, and of course Tomorrow in the battle think of me, whose title inspired me to title my first novel On the last night I loved you. As I told Sebastián Uribe in an interview for the magazine Página en Blanco a few years ago: “Marías is essential. I get the impression that she could not have written the novel without having read her work”.
Marías was a man of character, it could be seen in his opinion columns in El País. He attacked everything that caused him discomfort: José Camilo Cela, Podemos, Pablo Iglesias, Sánchez, Spain, modern feminism, Rajoy, Franco, the Church, anti-bullfighting, Gabriela Wiener. Marías was a writer who did not get carried away by fashionable politics, the kind that lasts a few years and then is forgotten. Marías was an island of freedom of thought at a time when saying many things is considered politically incorrect. That generated the stigma of curmudgeon and, perhaps, that cooled his candidacy for the Nobel Prize for literature, a prize to which he was always nominated. The tragedy of Marías’s death is that he was the most serious candidate for the Nobel Prize in Castilian letters. Although, of course, the literary industry was not in the best interest of a man like him, who wrote when he felt like it and who was not going to submit to editorial demands, win that award. Although his name was cold on the Swedish ballots, there was always the hope that one day, perhaps through persistence or longevity, the Nobel, to which he was deserving, would be awarded to him, as almost all other prizes were. We already know about the myopia suffered by Swedish academics, the same one that did not give Borges or Kundera the prize. Without him, the possibility of an upcoming Nobel Prize for Hispanic literature becomes almost a distant dream.
Tireless as an author, as a columnist, he was also an excellent editor through his publishing label Reino de Redonda, the same one that has translated and published William Faulkner, Joseph Conrad, Honoré De Balzac, Robert Louis Stevenson, among other authors that he himself Marias admired. The last King of Redonda has died, he has died of complications from pneumonia, perhaps one of the last writers who continued to use a typewriter has died, the best Spanish writer of the last 50 years has died. His death has been a blow, in his absence his immense work remains. Javier Marías has died, although I still wait with childish hope for him to come out of hiding and deny us all.
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[OPINIÓN] Paul Montjoy Forti: The Last King of Redonda