»The Proust of our time« – on the death of Javier Marías

Javier Marías [© Hartwig Klappert]

The Spanish writer Javier Marías passed away on Sunday a few days before his 71st birthday. A brief obituary by Michi Strausfeld.

Javier Marías was a guest of the ilb in 2015 – it was one of his rare public appearances in Germany, and it was his last. He disliked speaking in front of large audiences and was not a fan of interviews. To him, his work was always paramount – and that includes 18 novels, volumes of stories, essays [on football, literature, etc.] and several volumes of his Collected Chronicles, i.e. the weekly articles he wrote for El País as a keen observer of everyday changes in the people and the country as well as political events.

The tone of his novels, called the Marías sound, has captivated millions of readers worldwide in more than 40 languages. What was the secret of his prose? His first sentences are legendary, usually several lines long, and then the author starts writing without having a fixed plan. He works with an inner compass, he said, and it guides him to his goal. Marías also claimed that if he knew the outcome of the plot beforehand, it would bore him. His colleague and friend Eduardo Mendoza just noted: »He wrote the best Spanish in the country, and no one understood women as well as he did«. But all his narrators are male, with the exception of »The Infatuations«. Delicately, he explores the emotions, the thoughts, the dreams and the pasts… as if he were the Proust of our time. But his teacher was Shakespeare – seven novels bear a quotation from him in the title. In three weeks, his last novel, »Tomas Nevinson«, will be published, forming a diptych with the previous »Berta Isla«. His death, at just 70, has shaken the literary world. We mourn.