Javier Marías allowed few interviews with one condition: that they were long. For less than an hour he didn’t bother. When we met for the first time in Barcelona about ten years ago, he started asking questions. He wanted to probe if I’d really read his novel about him (The falls in love) from top to bottom. With a bolus of anxiety in the trachea I passed the exam better or worse. Then we started talking about everything. From love, whose mysticism he dismantled (“We continue to consider the lover a positive creature, but I know very noble people whom love has driven to the worst meanness”) to the whims of Spanish writers (“I know of some who turn to ‘agent, to the publisher to buy anxiolytics or go and try on a coat “), to descriptions in literature (” Cinema, TV, visual civilization have made them useless “).
He spoke bitterly cinéphile. He loved Hitchcock, Billy Wilder, Ophüls, Rossellini, John Ford, but also Anthony Mann’s twilight westerns. Instead he didn’t like films where the protagonist is an intellectual. And in the number he also included Eight and ½ of the “overrated” Fellini. In addition to Spanish, he could converse without stumbling in English, French, Italian. In Paris he had been bohemian playing the guitar and asking for change outside the cafes of Saint-Germain-des-Prés. He had taught at Oxford and lived in Venice. Once, returning from Palermo, he said to me: “He may have his own problems too, but it is a city of an ancient kindness. And in hotels you can still smoke.” He smoked a lot. During subsequent interviews – all in his house in Madrid, overlooking Plaza de la Villa, in the old Hapsburg heart of the capital – I saw him repeat the same gesture I don’t know how many times: incinerated four or five “cigarros” in a row, he got up from the sofa , opened the window to ventilate a little, then immediately closed it and away with another cigarette. When, in recent times, I confessed to him that I had switched to electronics, he was a little upset, but he gave me the look of someone who does not yet consider you a completely lost sheep.
Javier Marias: My crazy, beloved writers
by our correspondent Marco Cicala
Of the viveur he had been in his youth, at the sunset of Francoism, he retained a polite irreverence, plus the wit, very Spanish, and the irony of an Anglophile (who, however, had experienced Brexit as a stab in the back). For years he had lived with increasing discomfort in the 21st century of neo-puritanists, neo-fanaticisms, neo-boors. And every week he put the stupidities on the grill from the columns of his column in the supplement of País. Collected in several volumes, those italics are the diary in public of a moralist without doctrine who suffered above all from the contemporary age (“today the present is a dimension without duration”), the lack of humor, lightness, courtesy.
Javier Marías: I love spies and I fear Puritans
Bibliophile, no nostalgic, not even a misoneist, but wary of the idea that everything new is good regardless (“they sell us very old things for news”), he typed and the digital universe was unknown to him. Enemy of state awards and honors, a polemicist now skeptical of the incidence of any controversy, he conveyed a sense of integrity. The same one that his books give off. Which form a long moral reflection conducted with the weapons of perfidy and disenchantment, the narrative tricks of the spy-story and the thriller. Like anyone who takes writing seriously, he didn’t take himself too seriously. After the successes of the nineties (Such a white heart, Tomorrow in the battle think of me) had given it several times if not finished, let’s say in a crisis of panache. But she would have proved them wrong. With such novels Thus begins the evil, Berta Isla and especially the last, Tomás Nevinson, which is a masterpiece. I wanted to tell him, but I didn’t know how. He had no email and only his close friends knew his mobile number. Einaudi editions advised me to send him a letter by post. I was about to do it when I learned that he would never receive it.
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