"A veces escribo para averiguar qué escribo" (Sometimes I write to discover what I write). So says Javier Maríasnative of Madrid, and highly acclaimed novelist who has been widely tipped as a potential candidate for the Nobel Prize in Literature. Marías is a translator (to Spanish) of authors such as Faulkner, Yeats, Shakespeare, and Nabokov; an essayist; columnist for Madrid's newspaper El País; and member of the Royal Academy of the Spanish Language.
Javier was born September 20, 1951 to a philosopher father, Julián Maríaswho was briefly imprisoned after the Spanish Civil War, and who opposed the Franco regimeand to a translator/editor mother. He was raised in an intellectual home and resided for a short time in the U.S. while his father taught at Wellesley College and other institutions. Javier graduated from the famous Complutense University of Madrid, one of the oldest universities in the world, with a degree in English Literature. Incidentally the university was also his father's alma mater.
During his late teens, Javier Marías ran away to Paris with a specific goal of writing a novel about American movies. Living with his uncle, he managed to complete his debut Los dominios del lobo (The Dominions of the Wolf), which was published in 1971.
Subsequent novels include All Souls, which is set in Oxford University and draws inspiration from his time teaching there. It was not until A Heart So White, a novel hinging on suicide, that he received significant critical notice in Europe, where his books have sold millions. Other notable works include his trilogy, Your Face Tomorrow, which draws on autobiographical details. He is the recipient of numerous awards, including France's Prix Fémina Award and Italy's Nonino Literature Prize. In 2012, The Infatuations was selected for Spain's national narrative prize, which Marías turned down, preferring not to receive the government's publicly funded award. Marías has stated that he does not want "to be seen as an author who is favoured by any particular government," and has criticized the Spanish government for neglecting gifted writers (including his own father) in the past.
Marías spent several years translating, a practice he regards as critical to shaping and educating writers, as well as for writing novels. His work often features translators and interpreters as characters, and usually has male narrators (The Infatuations being an exception). Citing influences that range from Henry James to 17th century author Thomas Browne, among others, his signature style is comprised of long, clause-filled introspections and digressions. Betrayals and a keen interest in the unfolding of time also recur. He does not write with a computer, and admits to an idiosyncratic method favoring careful, page-by-page writing over multiple revisions. He lives in Madrid.
This article was originally published in September 2013, and has been updated for the
April 2014 paperback release.
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