Javier Marías and the face of yesterday

With Javier Marías a whole time is gone that is already past. A world that, without realizing it too much, has been escaping us little by little. With his death it is certified that that face we were looking at, that of Marías and that of his time, which was also ours, was not the face of the present, but that of the world of yesterday.

As a genius author, his works delve into recurring themes and spaces. Love, desire, betrayal, ignorance of the loved one and the friend occupy the narrative pages of it. His reflections intermingle with the closest and most particular topics of Spanish life, such as the kidnapping and murder of the young politician Miguel Ángel Blanco perpetrated by the terrorist group ETA in 1997, a background theme, for example, of Thomas Nevinson. But his work also likes to revisit the same spaces, especially Madrid, London and Oxford. An interest in the local that is very marked in his journalistic columns, where football, cinema, municipal politics or culture woke up They also had their space.

It is precisely his interpretation of that world of yesterday that tells us about his height. Javier Marías represents a generation that was born in the postwar period and that came to the professional world after the death of the dictator Francisco Franco. This is a generation marked, along with his parents, by the rigors of repression. If the first memories of Marías belong to New Haven, it is precisely because his father, the thinker Julián Marías, had to take refuge in American universities – Yale, in this case – after being stripped of his university position, after the denunciation from a partner. Without this family wound in his childhood it would not be possible to understand “Fever” – the first section of your face tomorrow (2002-2007)– nor his forays into topics related to the recent history of Spain in The century (Anagram, 1983) or in This is how bad things start (2014). Because of the seminal importance of these early experiences, his novel represents a transition to a new Spain. These are the years of the opening of the country to Europe and the arrival of freedoms and unknown uses. A few years, of course, where new desires, tastes and needs also emerge. And Marías develops them to perfection.

Compared to the diffident characters of sad and dark lives trapped in provincial spaces that occupy much of post-war Spanish literature, the characters of Marías embody a new educated and cultured middle class. It is in the central period of her career that we discover that world.

already in the sentimental man (Anagrama, 1986) its protagonist is a sophisticated man, an opera singer, who finds himself involved in an unexpected relationship with an attractive married woman. From here on, the characters of Marías will be university professors and detectives, as in the so-called “Oxford Cycle” –all the souls (Anagram, 1989), black back of time (Alfaguara, 1998) and your face tomorrow–, film directors, as in This is how bad things start.

It could be objected that they are eccentric characters, who do not reflect the bulk of society. But this is where the period value of Marías’s work resides. With the triumph of the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party in 1982, a new sophisticated and educated class also emerged, which had a new vital horizon opposed to the narrow Francoist world. With that horizon also comes a foreign world that was unknown.

In that space, new ways of relating develop through a previously vetoed carnal desire. In Marías’ work, new narrative techniques inherited from Faulkner or his admired Bernhard weave together the adventures of her characters. Although, strictly speaking, traces of this narrative style already appear in the previous generation, Marías masterfully elevates it. This new world, which directors such as Pilar Miró represent in national cinematography –Gary Cooper you are in heaven (1980)– José Luis Garci –in straps as Pending subject (1977) Y Alone in the morning (1978)– Marías takes it to the book with a more European tone.

Above all, that literary greatness comes to Marías from knowing how to embody the universal in the particular. Her work is full of the great universal questions that occupy the human being. Regardless of whether these questions materialize in Madrid or Oxford, her characters question their position in the world and the intimate dependence of all beings on their peers. The betrayal of the one we suppose our friend in your face tomorrow or the absence and possible infidelity of the one we love in Bertha Island (Alfaguara, 2017) are not the absences and betrayals of a specific individual. In itself, it can be said that the work of Marías, especially from the sentimental manIt is the fictional work of a thinker of the human being and his vital circumstance. It is here, in the union of the particular Spanish with the universality of the human, where the work of Marías becomes gigantic.

Moments of loss like this leave a feeling of emptiness. Uncertainty takes hold of us, in an inevitable comparison between what is no longer there and what has not yet arrived. Now serve your legacy to contemplate the past, enjoy the present and build the future.