He was one of the great writers of our time, a great lover of William Shakespeare and an author capable of raising his pen above all his contemporaries. With the death yesterday of Javier Marías, Spanish literature lost one of its great representatives, Critics’ Award on two occasions but has left without receiving either of the two great awards of our letters, the Cervantes or the Princess of Asturias.
Eternal candidate for the Nobel Prize for Literature and member of the Royal Academy of Language, Javier Marías died on the afternoon of September 11, 2022 due to complications from pneumonia for which he had been hospitalized for almost a month. He was the son of the philosopher Julián Marías, and spent much of his childhood in the United States, exiled along with his family to get away from the Franco dictatorship.
He was a student of Colegio Estudio, nurtured in the spirit of the Institución Libre de Enseñanza, and He graduated in Philosophy and Letters from the Complutense University of Madrid. In 1970 he wrote ‘The domains of the wolf’, the first of the 16 novels he published until 2021 and of which we have chosen the best five so that you can delve into the prose of this enormous author, if you have not already done so.
1) ‘Fever and Spear’ (2002)
‘Your face tomorrow’ is the first novel in the ‘Your face tomorrow’ trilogy, which a large part of foreign literary criticism considers to be Javier Marías’ best work and which was published between 2002 and 2009. The protagonist is Jacques, who returns to England to escape the failure of his marriage, and there he will discover that he has a gift: he is able to see what people will do in the future and analyze their faces.
With this ‘power’, he will be hired by an unnamed group that in World War II created the M16, the British Secret Service. He must listen, pay attention and decide if those in front of him will be victims or executioners, if they will be capable of dying or killing. A surprising, incredible and brilliant book in which each situation is an excuse to reflect on who we are.
2) ‘Tomorrow in battle think of me’ (1994)
This is one of those novels in which, when you have only 30 pages left, you feel strangely sad because the joy of reading it is ending. ‘Tomorrow in the battle, think of me’ is one of the novels in which Javier Marías’ masterful seal leaves the greatest mark. Death, madness, obsession… are some of the themes of this book starring Víctor, a relatively successful screenwriter and writer, who has a date with Marta Téllez, married and mother of two children. But her husband is in London.
Eager to see each other, the evening passes with sexual tension and desire, until the unexpected happens: Marta begins to feel bad and ends up dying in the double bed, with Víctor by her side and her children sleeping in the next room.
3) ‘Thomas Nevison’ (2021)
As a ‘spin-off’ or second part of his previous novel, Javier Marías wrote ‘Tomás Nevison’ to delve into the story of one of the characters in ‘Berta Isla’. Nevinson is Isla’s husband, and in 1997 he returns to the Secret Services to fulfill a risky mission: travel to a northern city and identify a person, half Spanish and half Northern Irish, who participated in IRA and ETA attacks in the 80’s
Throughout the novel, fabulously well written and with all the ingredients to be addictive, the author invites us to a deep reflection on good and evil; what are the limits between both and who makes the definition of what is wrong. Marías also plays with the idea that, although we think that everything has already happened to us in this life, something else can always happen… It is her last published novel.
4) ‘Ridiculous times’ (2013)
This is the best collection of articles published by Javier Marías in ‘El País Semanal’ between February 2011 and February 2013 and, frankly, a better title could not have been chosen for his reflections (a title that could also serve who run). In this volume, 96 columns are compiled in which, in small pills, it is clear what his talent was, his writing ability and his ability to introduce a sense of humor; although as these articles speak of the time of the economic crisis, perhaps that humor is more blurred. Among the worrying and tremendous articles, there are the ‘truces’, havens of peace in reading about the comic book heroes of his time, the new Spelling of the RAE or even how a certain coach reduced his passion as a madridista to the maximum .
5) ‘Heart so white’ (2006)
It is one of the most relevant titles of Javier Marías’ work: ‘Corazón tan blanco’, a work in which he talks about when to speak and when to remain silent; the importance of secrecy; the meaning of marriage and even how murder can punctuate all of this. Juan Ranz is the protagonist of ‘Corazón tan blanco’, a translator and interpreter by profession, but now he is a newlywed on his honeymoon in Havana. Leaning out onto the balcony, he is mistaken for a stranger waiting on the street, and inadvertently overhears a hotel conversation.