Javier Marías died at the age of 70

The Spanish writer Javier Marías, author of the worldwide hit "My Heart So White", has died at the age of 70. / Javier Marías died

He succumbed to complications from pneumonia. / Javier Marías died

The successful Spanish author Javier Marías died in Madrid shortly before his 71st birthday. He was one of the best-known and most successful contemporary Spanish writers. In Germany, too, he had millions of readers.

According to his publisher, Marias succumbed to complications from pneumonia. He had been suffering from the disease for several weeks, which had gotten worse in the past few hours. According to information from the newspaper “El Mundo”, the pneumonia was the result of a corona infection.

World-renowned novelist

Marías is considered one of the great authors of contemporary Spanish literature. His greatest successes include “My heart so white” (1993), “Tomorrow in the battle think of me” (1994) and “All souls” (1989). Last year he published his last novel “Tomás Nevinson”.

According to his publisher Alfaguara, Marías’ 16 novels have been translated into 46 languages ​​and sold more than nine million copies. The author was one of the “eternal Nobel Prize candidates”. His work includes not only novels, essays, columns and short stories, but also many translations from English.

Javier Marías died: Key writer of Spanish literature

The novelist and columnist has died in Madrid, as confirmed by family sources. He was 70 years old. In March 2021 he published his 16th novel, ‘Tomás Nevinson’

The writer Javier Marías, author of novels such as White Heart, All Souls, Your Face Tomorrow or Tomás Nevinson, has died this Sunday in Madrid due to pneumonia, as confirmed by family sources. He was 70 years old.

A native of Madrid from the Chamberí neighbourhood, a language academic and contributor to EL PAÍS, Marías made his debut as a writer in 1971, at the age of 19. He debuted with Los dominios del lobo, a novel written “in the mornings” —he considered himself an “evening” writer— in the Parisian apartment of his uncle, the filmmaker Jesús Franco, for whom he had translated scripts about Dracula. The book is dedicated to his teacher Juan Benet —who mediated with the Edhasa publishing house for it to be published— and to his friend Vicente Molina Foix, who “given” him the title.

For years he combined writing with teaching at the Complutense University and with translation. In 1979 Laurence Sterne’s version of him as Tristram Shandy received the National Award. In 2012 he again obtained the same distinction, this time in the narrative category, for Los Enamoramientos, but, as he had announced, he rejected it. That decision, which was limited to the honors awarded by the Spanish State, also affected the Cervantes Prize (which he did not obtain) but not the Nobel Prize (for which he was a candidate). In fact, he already had some of the most important awards on the international scene: from the Rómulo Gallegos to the European Literature award passing through the Nelly Sachs.

After winning the Herralde with El hombre sentimental and inaugurating his “Oxford cycle” with Todos las almas, Javier Marías’s work made the leap to the general public with the appearance in 1992 of Corazón tan blanco, which won the Prize of the Criticism. In that book he crystallized an unmistakable first-person voice that tries to synthesize narration and reflection in long sentences that —at the service of a mysterious plot or a moral dilemma— obsessively reproduces the winding path of thought. “Error with the compass”, he called it. Later they would come Tomorrow in the battle think of me and, when the word autofiction was barely used in Spain, Black back of time, in which he gives a new twist to All Souls.

Between 2002 and 2007, he embarked on his magnum opus: the monumental trilogy that, under the title of Your face tomorrow, involved his approach to the Civil War from an episode inspired by the denunciation of his father, a philosopher and disciple of Ortega y Gasset. Jailed as a republican, Julián Marías was prohibited from teaching at the Francoist university for refusing to sign the principles of the Movement. This forced him to make regular trips to the United States to teach, so Javier Marías spent his first year of life in Massachusetts, near Wellesley College, where his father was a professor. Staying in the house of the poet Jorge Guillén, as a neighbor he had Vladímir Nabokov, whose poems he would end up translating and whom he portrayed in the volume Vidas Escribas, a mythical compilation of the profiles published in the Claves magazine, founded by his friend Fernando Savater.

When it seemed that this trilogy closed the work of the mature Marías —who, at the age of 50, was still “the young Marías” (the senior was his father)—, he returned to fiction with a set of titles that are counted as successes: The infatuations, That’s how bad things begin, Berta Isla and the aforementioned Tomás Nevinson. In the prologue commemorating half a century of Los dominios del lobo —his first novel if we discount the adolescent and still unpublished La véspera— the writer recalled that, to the recurring question of why he wrote, he used to answer half jokingly: “To avoid suffering a boss or having to get up early or submit to fixed schedules. In the end, the writer’s job was not either, he added, “a way to spend life for a bum”: “Sometimes I put my hands to my head, aware as I am that each page has been patiently elaborated and re-elaborated, always on the basis of paper and always typed, with corrections by hand and retyping”. For years, moreover, he thought that “he would not live long, who knows why.” What “of course” he did not imagine then, he stressed, is that “that almost childhood game” was going to lead him to “work so much”.

His latest book, Will the cook be a good person?, hit bookstores last February. It is a compilation of the columns that he had published between 2019 and 2021 in El País Semanal, where he had been occupying the last page for almost two decades. “More than 900 Sundays”, he liked to remember, between punctilious and resigned for “never having convinced anyone of anything”. For years he was the last regular contributor to fax his articles to the newsroom. His only technological concession was to send them via Whatsapp after photographing the pages coming out of an Olimpia Carrera Deluxe to which, ironically, he linked the fate of his work: the day the typewriter failed, he would leave it.

He was one of the most international Spanish writers of all time. His books have been published in 46 languages ​​and in 59 countries. And they have sold more than eight million copies worldwide. “If they consider me, I’m glad, I appreciate it, but if they don’t consider me, I don’t care,” he declared in May, in one of the last interviews he gave. “In my case, everything that had to happen has already happened to a great extent. I can’t complain, I’ve been very lucky.” He was aware that his books are in the history of literature and, at the same time, in thousands of libraries and in the imagination of countless readers. Despite everything, he said he was not worried about the fate of his novels: “Posterity is a concept of the past, despite the apparent contradiction. Today it doesn’t make any sense. Everything gets old at an excessive speed. How many authors, as soon as they die, pass into immediate oblivion”. Given the shock that the news of his death has produced, it is safe to say that it will not be his case.

A great football and movie fan, he was a controversial columnist and a novelist respected by his peers and revered by readers. He liked to sign at the Madrid Book Fair. It turned out, he himself admitted, harsher in writing than in person. Up close he was polite and generous. Once the doors of his studio were opened, his attention did not distinguish between illustrious and meritorious, editors, photographers or interns.

Subjected to a painful back operation shortly before the pandemic, he spent his last years confined between his house in the Plaza de la Villa in Madrid, crammed with books, movies and tin soldiers, and that of his wife, Carme López Mercader, in Sant Cugat (Barcelona). There he had the cervantist Francisco Rico as a neighbor, a heavy smoker like him, a “real” character in some of his stories and in charge of responding to the speech with which he entered the RAE in 2008: On the difficulty of telling. The novel he had in mind did not go beyond the first lines. To the fatigue of having written four in the last decade, was added the lung condition that led him to a coma and, finally, to death. On the 20th he would have turned 71 years old.

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