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Marías, Javier 1951-

MARÍAS, Javier 1951-

PERSONAL: Born September 20, 1951, in Madrid, Spain; son of Julián Marías Aguilera and Dolores Franco Manera.


ADDRESSES: Agent—Mercedes Casanovas, Iradier 24, 08017 Barcelona, Spain.


CAREER: Writer and translator.


AWARDS, HONORS: Nelly Sachs Preis; Premio Grinzane Cavour; Premio Alberto Moravia; Premio Comunidad de Madrid; National Translation Prize, Spain, 1979, for Tristram Shandy; IX Premio Internacional de Novela Romulo Gallagos, 1995, for Mañana en la batalla piensa en mi; Prix Femina for best foreign book, 1996, Premio Fastenrath, and Premio Modello Città di Palermo, all for Tomorrow in the Battle Think on Me; IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, 1997, Spanish Critics National Award, and Prix L'Oeil et la Lettre, all for A Heart So White; Premio Ciudad de Barcelona, for All Souls.


WRITINGS:

Los dominios del lobo (title means "The Domains of the Wolf"), Edhasa (Barcelona, Spain), 1971.

Travesia del horizonte, 1973, Editorial Anagrama (Barcelona, Spain), 1988.

(With Felix de Azua and Vicente Molina-Foix) Tres cuentos didacticos (short stories), La Gaya Ciencia (Barcelona, Spain), 1975.

El monarca del tiempo, Alfaguara (Madrid, Spain), 1978.

El siglo, Seix Barral (Barcelona, Spain), 1983.

El hombre sentimental, Editorial Anagrama (Barcelona, Spain), 1986, translation by Margaret Jull Costa as The Man of Feeling, New Directions (New York, NY), 2003.

Todas las almas, Anagrama (Barcelona, Spain), 1989, translation by Margaret Jull Costa published as All Souls, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1992.

Mientras ellas Duermen, Anagrama (Barcelona, Spain), 1990.

Pasiones pasadas, Editorial Anagrama (Barcelona, Spain), 1991.

Corazon tan blanco, Editorial Anagrama (Barcelona, Spain), 1992, translation by Margaret Jull Costa published as A Heart So White, Harvill (New York, NY), 1995.

Vidas escritas, Ediciones Siruela (Madrid, Spain), 1992.

Literatura y fantasma (stories), Ediciones Siruela (Madrid, Spain), 1993.

Mañana en la batalla piensa en mi, Anagrama (Barcelona, Spain), 1994, translation by Margaret Jull Costa published as Tomorrow in the Battle Think on Me, Harcourt Brace (San Diego, CA), 1997.

Vida del fantasma: entusiasmos, bromas, reminiscencias y canones recortados, El Pais/Aguilar (Madrid, Spain), 1995.

Mano de sombra, Alfaguara (Madrid, Spain), 1997.

Miramientos, Alfaguara (Madrid, Spain), 1997.

Seré amado cuando falte, Alfaguara (Madrid, Spain), 1999.

Cuando fui mortal (stories), translation by Margaret Jull Costa published as When I Was Mortal, New Directions (New York, NY), 2000.

Salvajes y sentimentales, Aguilar (Madrid, Spain), 2000.

Negra espalda del tiempo, translation by Esther Allen published as Dark Back of Time, New Directions (New York, NY), 2001.

A veces un caballero, Alfaguara (Madrid, Spain), 2001.

Fiebre, Alfaguara (Madrid, Spain), 2002.

Tu rostro mañana, Alfaguara (Madrid, Spain), 2002.

El monarca del tiempo, Reino de Redonda (Madrid, Spain), 2003

Harón de mon un criminal, Alfaguara (Madrid, Spain), 2003.


Translator of classic English novels into Spanish, including Tristram Shandy, by Laurence Stern, and works by Joseph Conrad, Robert Louis Stevenson, Wallace Stevens, William Faulkner, John Ashbery, W. H. Auden, Frank O'Hara, Isak Dinesen, Sir Thomas Brown, Thomas Hardy, and W. B. Yeats.


Author's works have been translated into over twenty languages.


SIDELIGHTS: One of the most noted novelists of his generation and the son of a well-known cultural critic in his native Spain, Javier Marías began writing fiction in 1971 at age nineteen. In addition, he has translated many English classics into Spanish, including the works of Thomas Hardy, Robert Louis Stevenson, Joseph Conrad, W. B. Yeats, and Laurence Sterne. Cited by Nation reviewer Ilan Stavans as heir to such writers as Marcel Proust and Jorge-Luis Borges, Marías's prose, according to the critic, can also be compared to that of American writer Henry James; he employs "the same syncopated prose and introspective inquisitiveness, and he often uses equally long, tortuous sentences." However, unlike James, the writings of Marías are composed of "disconnected segments . . . that seldom add up to a whole," creating a reading experience that proves "rewarding because he is a literary magician who understands literature as a game of mirrors."


Marías's early novel El siglo is a story about fate in which a father tells his son, Casaldaliga, to seek his own destiny; as the boy learns, his father has not followed his own advice. James H. Abbott, writing in World Literature Today, compared the "theme of chance or coincidence," which the critic maintained is "treated capriciously" in Marías's novel Los dominios del lobo, to the more "analytical perspective" employed in El siglo. Rather than follow the events of Casaldaliga's life as they occur, Marías "chooses instead the development of the protagonist's character . . . [and] search for personal destiny." The question is whether choice of destiny is possible. Abbott commented that the author "structures El siglo with perfect balance . . . lyrical passages . . . [and] a sense of passing time related to El siglo which becomes not only Casaldaliga's time but life and the world in which the reader also lives."


Ignacio-Javier Lopez, writing in World Literature Today, noted that Marías ranks among those Spanish novelists in his generation who have followed the lead of Juan Benet, a writer who refused to use his work as a forum for political or social commentary. Instead these writers focus on topics of a less-timely and more universal nature, notably the topic of love. Lopez cited Marías's El hombre sentimental as an example of "love viewed ironically and without taking the characters' passionate declarations seriously."


Marías's highly acclaimed novel El hombre sentimental—translated as The Man of Feeling—is a portrait of an aberrant artist, told through the perspective of its narrator, Leon de Napoles, an quasi-famous opera star. Infatuated with a married woman he barely knows, Napoles declares, "I need to try to destroy myself or to destroy someone else." He accomplishes both. Review of Contemporary Fiction's Steven Kellman remarked that "Readers in the United States have been slower than those elsewhere to discover the sophisticated pleasures" of Marías's "perverse and powerful fiction." A Kirkus Reviews critic found Man of Feeling to be "a resonant enigma, deftly explored in an elusive text that's a revealing introduction to and gloss on Marías' richer, even more puzzling subsequent fiction."

Todas las almas, published in English translation as All Souls, is a novel based on Marías's two-and-a-half years as a lecturer in Spanish literature at Oxford University, and his concurrent romance with a married colleague. The characters include professors, whom Michael Kerrigan called in the Times Literary Supplement "perfect, idealized forms in their university setting," who are "haunted by the prospect of decay . . . uncomfortably aware of their own insignificance," and serve as "mute testimony to the provisional nature of literary distinction." Juan J. Liebana in World Literature Today called Marías's novel "a book of memories, or perhaps a belated journal. . . . A stage of his life in which he rather felt alienated from his surroundings, more the observer than the participant." Liebana wrote that Todas las almas is "a unique book in many ways and is full of pleasant surprises that confirm Marías's literary craft." Guy Mannes-Abbot, writing in New Statesman & Society, found the novel to be a "circuitous encounter with the English, their language and their quintessential institution." "Narrator and reader become engaged in metaphorical detective work to uncover a culture," the critic added, noting that the novelist includes within his work "a swirl of masterfully choreographed narrative leaps."


Marías's Corazon tan blanco is a story narrated in the first person. Juan, newly married at age thirty-four, is fearful for his marriage because of the circumstances of the death of his father's first wife, also his mother's sister. At the outset of the novel Juan's Aunt Teresa commits suicide after one week of marriage to his father, Ranz, and henceforth Juan feels a sense of impending doom. He sees parallels between the events of the past and scenes he has observed in his own life. Discussing the English translation of the novel, published as A Heart So White, a Kirkus Reviews contributor noted that the title and epigraph "allude openly to Macbeth's murder of Duncan, and its sinister burden of simultaneous cumulative revelation and deepening mystery. . . . The flawed, truncated nature of all human contact and efforts to reach it has rarely been given such remorseless stress." A reviewer for Publishers Weekly characterized the novel's tone as similar to foreplay and added that Marías's characters "tease each other—as the author teases the reader—with nibbles of information, half-divulged stories . . . to arouse a reader's curiosity the way an interrupted caress can awaken a lover's desire." Ricardo Landeira, reviewing A Heart So White for World Literature Today, called the book "truly original, intriguing, and elegantly written."

Marías's novel Mañana en la batalla piensa en mi earned the 1995 Romulo Gallagos Award, the Hispanic-American equivalent of the Nobel Prize for Literature. In this story, Victor, a scriptwriter in Madrid, is having an affair with Marta, a married woman. While they are together, she dies, and Victor is faced with associated problems. A Kirkus Reviews critic, appraising the English translation, Tomorrow in the Battle Think on Me, maintained that the novel's plot "spins off into amusingly unpredictable directions," while a Publishers Weekly contributor wrote, "Sometimes [Marías] strikes a note of genuine pathos, but just as often his musings, with their repetitions and long, long run-on sentences, become tiresome." Lisa Rohrbaugh commented in Library Journal that readers of Tomorrow in the Battle Think on Me will find that "Victor and Marta's husband share their secrets of dealing with wives and lovers in a climactic ending."


Described by Nation reviewer Ilan Stavans as "by far the brainiest, most emblematic, and abstruse book by Marías, as well as the most demanding," Dark Back of Time, originally published as Negra espalda del tiempo, is a self-reflective work of literary fiction that is nonlinear in its narrative and mixes fact with non-fact in a challenging yet compelling intertwining triple narrative. The book—which its author terms a "false novel"—has its basis in Marías's creation of his novel All Souls, which focuses on his experiences while teaching at Oxford University. In this work the author describes the reaction to his previous novel of those people who were fictionalized within its pages, their metamorphosis sometimes aided by publishing-house editors. In one narrative the author describes how some individuals fictionalized in the novel have gone on to adopt some of the characteristics of their novel characters; the second narrative focuses on British author John Gawsworth; and the third narrative follows the author's own life, including the deaths of his mother and older brother. Describing the complex work as a "stimulating and original" novel full of "wit and wisdom," Library Journal reviewer Jack Shreve praised Dark Back of Time for providing readers with "a rare insider's view of the processes of writing fiction." To John de Falbe, writing in the Spectator, Marías has created a novel that "resonate[s] with wonderful and beautiful clarity," a work enhanced by "his unique style—witty and mesmerising,. . .—that makes the passage between truth and fiction fluid and convincing." Comparing Marías with Italian novelist Italo Calvino, a Publishers Weekly contributor noted that Dark Back of Time showcases both the author's "antiquarian's taste for history's minor characters" and his "ability . . . to turn a metaphysical insight into a novelist adventure."


BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

BOOKS

Marías, Javier, El hombre sentimental, Editorial Anagrama (Barcelona, Spain), 1986, translation by Margaret Jull Costa as The Man of Feeling, New Directions (New York, NY), 2003.

PERIODICALS

Booklist, November 1, 1996, p. 482; October 15, 1997, p. 389.

Hispania, summer, 1993, p. 492; March, 1996, p. 84.

Kirkus Reviews, January 1, 1996, p. 18; November 1, 1996, p. 1558; September 1, 1997, p. 1332; April 15, 2003, review of The Man of Feeling, p. 571.

Library Journal, August, 1997, Lisa Rohrbaugh, review of Tomorrow in the Battle Think on Me, p. 132; August, 2004, Jack Shreve, review of Dark Back of Time, p. 68.

London Review of Books, April 24, 1997, p. 13.

Nation, March 19, 2001, Ilan Stavans, "The Spanish Mien," p. 32.

New Statesman & Society, October 9, 1992, Guy Mannes-Abbott, review of All Souls, p. 35; July 28, 1995, p. 38.

New Yorker, April 15, 1996, p. 92.

New York Times, May 21, 2000, Elizabeth Judd, review of When I Was Mortal.

Observer, November 1, 1992, p. 62; November 15, 1992, p. 64; November 10, 1996, p. 18.

Publishers Weekly, January 8, 1996, review of A Heart So White, p. 59; July 21, 1997, p. 180; March 26, 2001, review of Dark Back of Time, p. 64.

Review of Contemporary Fiction, spring, 2001, Ben Donnelly, review of A Heart So White, p. 191; fall, 2001, Alan Tinkler, review of Dark Back of Time, p. 2000; summer, 2003, Steven Kellman, review of The Man of Feeling.

Spectator, September 8, 2001, John de Falbe, review of Dark Back of Time, p. 37.

Times Literary Supplement, October 6, 1989, Michael Kerrigan, review of All Souls, p. 19; November 6, 1992, p. 21; November 15, 1996, p. 24; September 10, 1999, review of When I Was Mortal, p. 21.

Tribune Books (Chicago, IL), January 12, 1997, p. 2.

Washington Post Book World, July 7, 1996, p. 6.

World Literature Today, spring, 1984, James H. Abbott, review of El siglo, p. 242; autumn, 1988, p. 635; winter, 1991, p. 86; autumn, 1993, p. 783.*

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