The “eternal nominee for the Nobel Prize”: the death of the Spanish writer Javier Marias

“Eternal Candidate for the Nobel Prize”
Spanish writer Javier Marias dies

For a long time, Javier Marias’ books were hard to sell in Germany – until his work “My Heart Till White” was praised in the summer of 1996. The writer was one of the most successful contemporary Spanish writers. Shortly before his 71st birthday he died unexpectedly.

On his 70th birthday nearly a year ago, Javier Marías was as critical and controversial as ever. According to some critics, the man, who is one of the most important and successful contemporary Spanish writers and has many admirers in Germany, was in the best literary form. Marias died unexpectedly on Sunday, a few days before his 71st birthday. And the Spanish newspaper, El Mundo, reported that he had contracted pneumonia as a result of being infected with Corona.

His latest book, the spy novel Thomas Nevinson, published in Spain in the spring of 2021, is perhaps Marias’ best work ever, according to literary critic Jose Carlos Meiner. From this fall, the novel will also be available with a German translation from Fischer Verlag. For a long time, the uncomfortable thinker was difficult to sell, even in Germany. Until “My Heart So White” was unanimously praised in the summer of 1996 – about four years after the Spanish version appeared – on the TV show “Das Literarisches Quartett”.

“Literary Pope” Marcel Rich Ranici, who died in 2013, spoke of a “wonderful book” and “the greatest writer in the world currently alive.” After airing and more positive reviews, the novel topped the bestseller lists and the German translation alone sold 1.2 million copies. Marías, who was a member of the Royal Spanish Academy, was pleased with the success in Germany but also wanted to keep a critical distance. “I’m not good because the Germans or others say that.” A year ago, he stressed the existence of writers “whose books were only sold a few thousand copies and were recorded in history.”

The rebel in the literary world

According to his publisher Alfaguara, the sixteen Marías novels have been translated into 46 languages ​​and have sold over nine million copies. The author is one of the “eternal nominees for the Nobel Prize”. He was praised in heaven by notable peers like Orhan Pamuk and JM Coetzee. A frequent smoker and a late fourth, he openly admitted he had always had “massive insecurity” when he started a new business in his apartment filled with books in central Madrid. As he gets older, he understands “how novels are made less and less,” said Marias a year ago. While the blank white paper—Marias hated computers and was always typed—caused him discomfort, the final work often annoyed the literary historian and university teacher.

He said at the time, “All my novels look bad to me once they’re finished. I often like to throw all the pages in the trash.” Marias wasn’t just hard on himself. In his column in El Pais, he was very critical of many, many people. He complained of authoritarian heads of government of all stripes: “We live in a time full of celebrity idiots.”

The man, who began writing at the age of eleven according to his stories, and makes a living as a street singer in Paris, has always been a rebel in the world of literature. He rarely gave interviews, refused to award prizes from government agencies in Spain – and did not accept any advance payments. As a reason, he said, “I will lose my freedom. I will not be able to put a book that does not work in the drawer.”

Betrayal, love and desire

The author was the second youngest of five children to Julian Marias. The well-known philosopher (1914-2005) spent a long time behind bars as an opponent of Franco’s dictatorship and was forced to emigrate to the United States for a period in the mid-1950s. Javier Marias grew up bilingual. He earned his first money as a child, not only through brief appearances in the films of his uncle Jesús Franco, but also as a translator. He studied at Oxford University in the 1980s. He worked on his experiences in Great Britain in the novel “All Souls or the Madmen of Oxford” (1989).

Marias’ work includes not only novels, essays, columns, and short stories, but also numerous translations from the English language. The literary marks of the ardent supporter of Real Madrid football club included precise language, a mixture of fact and fiction, and broad sentences.

He mainly dealt with topics such as betrayal, love and desire. Marías, who was hailed as the “innovator” of Spanish literature in the 1980s, once said that writing was essentially “unnatural and funny.” Described in “The Mortal Lovers” (2011). According to Marias, an employee of the publishing house discovered in the novel through daily contact with the authors “how tired, stupid and arrogant we (writers) are.”

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