The Spanish novelist and translator Javier Marías has lived so long in other countries and other languages that, by his own account, some of his compatriots have come to deny his own "Spanishness." It shouldn't be too surprising, then, that no Spanish writers are among the "fairly disastrous individuals" Marías has honored in "Written Lives," a collection of short and scintillating portraits deftly translated by Margaret Jull Costa and inspired more by intriguing anecdotes and details than by a determination to capture basic biographical facts. While he claims that his selections are "entirely arbitrary," it can't be coincidental that most of these writers, with a few exceptions like Faulkner, lived for extended periods abroad, either as exiles or expatriates.
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