The most important novels of Javier Marías

Half a century contemplates the trajectory of Javier Marías as a writer, essayist and translator. Since his debut with ‘The Domain of the Wolf’, in 1971, he has written 16 novels, as well as several volumes of short stories and essays, including two studies on the works of Faulkner and Nabokov, two of his great references. . Laurence Sterne, Joseph Conrad and John Ashberry are some of the authors he has translated; he was awarded the National Translation Award in 1979. And another good handful of titles compile the Sunday articles that he has written for years in ‘XL Semanal’ and ‘El País Semanal’. The young Marias who sponsored John Benet During his first steps he has become, in these five decades, the most recognized contemporary Spanish writer, the only national name that for years has sounded for the Nobel Prize. What follows is a selection of his most important novels.


‘The domains of the wolf’

Javier Marías spoke of this work, his first novel, as a kind of prank; a dare that he published when he was 19 years old. The style of this work has nothing to do with the one he developed in his following works, but since his maturity he viewed his debut with sympathy. The action of the novel takes place in the United States and the characters are inspired by actors and movies from classic Hollywood cinema, which he was very fond of. A funny parody with which he presented his candidacy to the great writer he ended up becoming.

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‘The sentimental man’

It is, perhaps, the first great novel published in the 1980s, after ‘Crossing the horizon’, ‘The monarch of time’ and ‘The century’. These are the years he dedicated to teaching in cities like Oxford or Venice, an experience that he would later pour into his books. With ‘El hombre sentimental’ he won the Herralde Novel Prize, the beginning of a more intimate stage. Around the narrator, a Catalan opera singer, a series of characters converge who exude all kinds of passions.

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‘all souls’

It is the first title of what was later called the oxford cycle, starring a nameless professor whom many identified with Marías himself. From then on, many of the characters in his novels would have teachers or translators among their main characters. “No secret can or should be kept forever for everyone, but rather it is bound to find at least one recipient once in a lifetime, once in the life of that secret. That is why we condemn ourselves for what we say. Or from what they tell us », he writes, in this novel of secrets and intrigues.

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‘heart so white’

With a mixture of essay and novel, ‘Corazón tan blanco’ was a success with the public and critics and marked his great consecration as a writer. The work was translated into dozens of languages ​​and Marías went on to rub shoulders with the great names of contemporary literature. The narrator of the novel, recently married, reflects on the future of his marriage while remembering the experience of his father: and in these pages Marías abounds in the danger of knowing, because once things are known they are not forgotten. «I did not want to know –he writes in the first lines–, but I have learned that one of the girls, when she was no longer a girl and had not long since returned from her wedding trip, entered the bathroom, stood in front of She looked at the mirror, opened her blouse, took off her bra and looked for her heart with the point of the gun…»

Main image -'Tomorrow in battle think of me'


‘Tomorrow in battle think of me’

In another first paragraph to underline, Marías writes: «Nobody ever thinks that he can go to meet a dead woman in his arms and that he will no longer see her face whose name he remembers». And this is what happens at the beginning of ‘Tomorrow in the battle think of me’, another great success in sales. The narrator has a sexual encounter in the house of a married woman, where she is she begins to feel bad and dies. An unconsummated infidelity that begins the plot of a great interior novel.

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‘Your face tomorrow’

Without a doubt, his most ambitious work. More than a thousand pages spread over three novels (‘Fever and Spear’, ‘Dance and Dream’ and ‘Poison and Shadow and Goodbye’) that come to complete their Oxford cycle. All the reflections introduced in his previous works are revealed here in their maximum expression. Jacques or Jaime or Jacobo Deza, or whatever the protagonist’s name is, writes from a very particular person about secrecy and espionage, about love and disappointment, about ambitions and betrayals… a colossal work that without a doubt will occupy a place of honor in the history of Spanish literature.

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‘Berta Island’

After ‘Los infatuations’ and ‘This is how the bad starts’, Javier Marías returns to the world of spies with ‘Berta Isla’, in which he recovers his best narrative skills. Because it is a spy novel without any of this being shown, and instead everything that surrounds this mysterious profession: marital fidelity, uncertainty, fear, secrets, pretenses, the transformations of a couple. .. Marías did not run out with ‘Your face tomorrow’, on the contrary, ‘Berta Isla’ and ‘Tomás Nevinson’ return to themes tackled in the trilogy but with a more refined novelistic intent.

The most important novels of Javier Marías