Sunday, March 05, 2006

Written Lives by Javier Marias

Why isn't Spanish writer Javier Marias more well known in this country? Although he has published 29 books that have been translated into over 40 languages, American readers have been slow to embrace the work of the witty and stylish writer.
New Directions, Mr. Marias' American publisher, knows this and has begun a campaign that may finally win him the following he deserves. Last year they brought out "Your Face Tomorrow," the first installment of a three-volume tour de force in which the author has added espionage to his signature explorations of love and marriage.
Now comes "Written Lives," a book that contains 26 mini-biographies of famous writers from around the world. The idea, Mr. Marias writes in the introduction, "was to treat these well-known literary figures as if they were fictional characters, which may well be how all writers, whether famous or obscure, would secretly like to be treated."
He notes that he offers "snippets" of their lives, adding slyly "Far from being a hagiography, and far too from the solemnity with which authors are frequently treated, these Written Lives are told, I think, with a mixture of affection and humour. The latter is doubtless present in every case; the former, I must admit, is lacking in the case of Joyce, Mann and Mishima."
Though he reckons that all of his subjects were "fairly disastrous" individuals, he notes that what he feels about them as individuals "does not necessarily correspond to any admiration or scorn I might actually feel for their writing."

You can find the review here

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