Written Lives – Javier Marías, An Incredible Book!

I enjoyed reading Written Lives because I really love to read about the authors I like or haven’t had the opportunity to meet. Especially if these articles came from the hands of an exquisite writer. Javier Marias is an incredible narrator, and the things he shares in Written Lives are a lot of fun!


Written Lives - Javier Marías

Written Lives is not very similar to the ubiquitous life stories of famous writers. Even if you are browsing the internet and the authors’ life stories, you can be sure that you will find much more in this book. Javier Marias is an incredible author and reading the fun things he wrote about authors make this book a delight. Be sure to read Written Lives, and make sure you have a notebook and a pen to take notes while reading.

Written Lives would be finished in a very short time if I had not lost so much time to search the books of the writers I had not read and the poems of the poets online. However, Written Lives is a book that grows within itself, so it is much more enjoyable to read than other books. If you are curious about the exciting lives of the authors, do not miss Written Lives. Enjoy!

Written Lives - Javier Marías

Written Lives

Written Lives: In addition to his own busy career as “one of Europe’s most intriguing contemporary writers” (TLS), Javier Marías is also the translator into Spanish of works by Hardy, Stevenson, Conrad, Faulkner, Nabokov, and Laurence Sterne. His love for these authors is the touchstone of Written Lives. Collected here are twenty pieces recounting great writers’ lives, “or, more precisely, snippets of writers’ lives.” Thomas Mann, Rilke, Arthur Conan Doyle, Turgenev, Djuna Barnes, Emily Brontë, Malcolm Lowry, and Kipling appear (“all fairly disastrous individuals”), and “almost nothing” in his stories is invented.

Like Isak Dinesen (who “claimed to have poor sight, yet could spot a four-leaf clover in a field from a remarkable distance away”), Marías has a sharp eye. Nabokov is here, making “the highly improbable assertion that he is ‘as American as April in Arizona,'” as is Oscar Wilde, who, in debt on his deathbed, ordered up champagne, “remarking cheerfully, ‘I am dying beyond my means.'”

Faulkner, we find, when fired from his post office job, explained that he was not prepared “to be beholden to any son-of-a-bitch who had two cents to buy a stamp.” Affection glows in the pages of Written Lives, evidence, as Marías remarks, that “although I have enjoyed writing all my books, this was the one with which I had the most fun.”

Javier Marías

Javier Marías is a contemporary Spanish journalist, writer, translator and member of the Real Academia Española, being successful in all of these literary domains. Although probably most well known for his novels, Javier Marías’ journalistic articles are also well worth reading, especially those who want to learn Spanish as well as about some of the smaller aspects of Spanish culture.

Javier Marías was born in Madrid in 1951 as the son of the philosopher Julián Marías. He spent a part of his childhood in the United States. This was because his father, who was a republican, was imprisoned and reprised by the Franco regime for a short time, as well as being banned from giving classes in Spanish universities. As a result, Javier Marías’ father spent a lot of time teaching in North-American universities. In 1964, his father’s prestige was restored and he was incorporated as a member of the Real Academia Española.

Javier himself received a good, solid education as a child, before going on to study Philosophy and Literature at the Complutense University in Madrid. His nephew and cousin, Jesús Franco and Ricardo Franco respectively, were film makers and so Javier Marías spent a lot of time translating and writing scripts for their films, as well as appearing in one of their feature films as an extra.

In 1970, he wrote his first novel, Los dominios del lobo, which was published the following year. During this time, Marías met Juan Benet, a man who would become not only a great friend to Marías, but also a key figure in his personal and literary life. In 1972, he published Travesía del horizonte and El monarca del tiempo in 1978. This same year, his translation of the novel by Laurence Sterne, La vida y opiniones del caballero Tristram Shandy, came out, and was awarded the Fray Luis de León Translation Prize the following year.

Over the years, Marías has translated many famous works by authors such as Rudyard Kipling, William Shakespeare, and William Faulkner, among many others. His translation work has meant that these classics have been made available in Spanish schools so that Spanish students can enjoy them just as much as their English-speaking counterparts.

Javier Marías published his fourth novel, El siglo, in 1983. That year he also began teaching Spanish Literature and Translation Theory at the University of Oxford. In the following years, he also taught at Wellesley College and the Complutense University of Madrid. Throughout the end of the 1980s, Marías released even more novels including El hombre sentimental (1986) and Todas las almas (1988).

The 1990s and 2000s saw Javier Marías produce yet more novels and translations, including his most ambitious project yet, Tu rostro mañana, which later had to be split into three volumes as it totaled over 1500 pages, released in 2002, 2004 and 2007. In 2006, Marías was given his seat at the Real Academia Española.

Reading this book contributed to these challenges: 

A Non-Fiction a Month

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