Javier Marías

Portrait Javier Marías
© Hartwig Klappert

Javier Marías Franco was born in Madrid in 1951 as the son of the philosopher Julián Marías Aguilera, who was imprisoned and banned from teaching for criticizing the Franco regime. For this reason, Javier Marías spent part of his childhood in the United States, where his father taught at various universities. Among the literary people in the family’s social circle in the USA were Jorge Guillén and Vladimir Nabokov. After returning to Spain, Marías studied Literature and Philosophy at the University Complutense Madrid from 1968 to 1973, where he later worked as professor.

Javier Marías wrote his first novel (unpublished) at the age of fifteen. In 1971, he launched »Los demonios del lobo« (tr. The demons of the wolf). Other novels followed. »El hombre sentimental« (1986; Eng. »The Man of Feeling«, 2003) was awarded the Premio Herralde de Novela prize. Between 1983 and 1985, Marías taught at Oxford, a crucial experience for his later work. In 1988, he published the novel »Todos las almas« (tr. »All souls«, 1992). Marías’s greatest international success was »Corazón tan blanco« (1992; Eng. »A Heart So White«, 1995), which got in Germany outstanding critiques in the television show »Literarisches Quartett«. The book begins with a seemingly inexplicable suicide committed before the birth of the narrator, a translator like Marías himself (who won Spain’s National Translation Prize in 1979 for his translation of »Tristram Shandy«). In the course of »Corazón«, the protagonist Juan slowly finds out the reasons for this tragic event and begins to reflect on power and the dangers of language. Many other novels followed, for which he received the most important literary prizes, including the Rómulo Gallegos, the Prix Fémina Étranger, the Nelly Sachs, the Grinzano Cavour, the State Prize for European Literature in Austria, the America Award, and the Formentor. Readers now speak of the »Marás sound« because of his highly melodic prose. For his novel »Los enamoramientos« (2011; Eng. »The Infatuations«, 2013), Marías was awarded the Spanish government’s National Literature Prize in 2012, but refused to take it as protest against the drastic cuts to the state’s budget for culture. Along with twelve novels, essays, and a children’s book, he has also published books of short stories, including »While the Women are Sleeping« (2010). His work has appeared in 43 languages in 52 countries.

As a member of the International Parliament of Writers, he campaigns for colleagues in adversity, including during the wars in the Balkans and Chechnya. In 2000, he founded the Reino de Redonda publishing house. His Sunday columns on politics and society in »El País Semanal« are widely read. Marías lives in Madrid.