The successful Spanish author Javier Marias, who celebrated his 70th birthday yesterday, does not allow the passage of time or his intense self-doubts to stop him. His last book, the spy novel “Tomas Nevinson” published in the spring, was probably Marias’ best work of all, judged the literary critic Jose Carlos Mainer.
Success thanks to a literary quartet
The inconvenient thinker was long considered difficult to sell, even in German-speaking countries. Until “My heart so knows” in the summer of 1996 – around four years after the appearance of the Spanish version – was unanimously showered with praise on the TV show “The literary quartet”.
The “Literature Pope” Marcel Reich-Ranicki, who died in 2013, spoke of an “ingenious book” and the “greatest writer in the world who lives in the moment”. After the broadcast and further positive reviews, the novel conquered the bestseller lists and sold 1.2 million copies in the German translation alone.
“Eternal Nobel Prize Candidate”
According to his publisher Alfaguara, the 16 novels by Marias to date have been translated into 46 languages and sold a total of nine million times. The author is one of the “eternal Nobel Prize candidates”.
He is praised in the sky by such well-known colleagues as Orhan Pamuk and JM Coetzee. The chain smoker and late riser openly admits that he is always plagued by “enormous uncertainty” when he begins a new work in his apartment full of books in the center of Madrid.
Rebel of the literary business
The older he gets, he “understands less and less how novels are made”. While the blank sheet of paper – Maria hates computers and always types on the typewriter – causes him discomfort, the finished work often causes annoyance to the literary historian and university professor. “All of my novels seem bad to me as soon as they are finished. Often I would like to throw all the pages in the trash, ”he said.
Marias is considered a rebel in the literature business. He rarely grants interviews, does not accept any awards from government agencies in Spain – and also no advance payments. His explanation: “I would lose my freedom. And you can’t put a book that didn’t work out in the drawer. “