Best Books of the Year from El Pais

El Pais has their end of year top ten. No real surprises here this year. The better list is the top 4 by genre. In the fiction in Spanish are

1. Así empieza lo malo. Javier Marías. Alfaguara.

2. El impostor. Javier Cercas. Literatura Random House.

3. El balcón en invierno. Luis Landero. Tusquets.

4. Como la sombra que se va. Antonio Muñoz Molina. Seix Barral.

The most interesting is in the Spanish non fiction category. They list Continuación de ideas diversas by César Aira, which is an interesting choice. It is a meditation on writing in a free associative style. Caravana de recuerdos has a review.


Interview with Javier Marias at the White Review

There is a lengthy and wide ranging interview with Javier Marias at the White Review that is worth checking out.

QThe White Review — A common accusation levelled at you is your not being ‘Spanish’ enough. It’s been said many times that you write as if in translation.

AJavier Marías — I was accused of that for many years. My second novel featured British characters and a strange expedition to the South Pole or the North Pole, I can’t remember which. That was published in 1973, titled Voyage Along the Horizon in English. My first two novels didn’t have anything to do with Spain or Spanish people or political issues, and some people started to say, this is an English writer who translated himself into Spanish. It was said that my Spanish is full of syntactical inaccuracies, and it’s true – I have forced the syntax in my language very much, not only because of my knowledge of English, but also because languages should be more resilient than some academic people allow them to be. So I had this foreign writer label – and it was very derogatory – but then I’ve had several different labels throughout my very long career. I was finally accepted as a good writer, but too ‘brainy’ or cerebral, too cold. I think my novels are not particularly cold – there are passages which are rather passionate or at least almost lyrical, I would say. Then for another period they said, ‘Yes, but he writes for women,’ as if that was something bad. But that’s not true, I have all kinds of readers, and then everyone has more female readers, because women read more than men. People who don’t like you try to label you with derogatory things, but when a label falls down by itself, then they look for another one. I don’t know why. In my own country I’ve felt in general more resistance than support from my colleagues, from the literary establishment, not all critics but many of them.

Javier Marías Has a New Book of Essays

Javier Marías has published a new book of 96 essays collected from several years worth of newspaper columns. El Pais has a brief review (which is convenient since the essays were written for El Pais).

El título Tiempos ridículos lo encontró Javier Marías leyendo un “modesto artículo” del New York Times sobre el ocaso de los neuróticos ante “la superabundancia de ellos”. Lo usó para una de sus columnas en El País Semanal, en la que trataba —al hilo del polémico safari del Rey en África— de elefantes aún mayores: la desmesura, la iracundia y la histeria colectiva que nos inunda. Tiempos ridículoses ahora el título del volumen (y la cita, recuerda el escritor, es de una catedrática de Psiquiatría: “Vivimos tiempos ridículos, y si a uno le parece que todo tiene sentido, lo más probable es que no esté bien”) que, editado por Alfaguara, reúne 96 artículos publicados durante los últimos dos años.

Artículos combativos unos y “de tregua” otros, como define Marías a los que escoran hacia la autobiografía. “Involuntariamente autobiográficos”, matiza, “más bien evocativos, en los que recupero anécdotas familiares o de viajes. Quizá en ellos está lo más parecido que jamás haré a unas memorias o a unos diarios, que siempre me resultan pretenciosos a no ser que uno tenga una vida llena de aventuras, y no es el caso”.

Essay from Javier Marías (in English) at Five Dials

Five Dials has an Essay from Javier Marías (pdf) of The Leopard from Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa.

There is no such thing as the indispensable book or author, and the world would be exactly the same if Kafka, Proust, Faulkner, Mann, Nabokov and Borges had never existed. It might not be quite the same if none of them had existed, but the non-existence of just one of them would certainly not have affected the whole. That is why it is so tempting – an easy temptation if you like – to think that the representative twentieth-century novel must be the one that very nearly didn’t exist, the one that nobody would have missed (Kafka, after all, did not leave just the one work, and as soon as it was known that there were others, as well as Metamorphosis, any reader was then at liberty to desire or even yearn to read them), the one novel that, in its day, was seen by many almost as an excrescence or an intrusion, as antiquated and completely out of step with the predominant ‘trends’, both in its country of origin, Italy, and in the rest of the world. A superfluous work, anachronistic, one that neither ‘added to’ nor ‘moved things on’, as if the history of literature were something that progressed and was, in that respect, akin to science, whose discoveries are left behind or eliminated as they are overtaken or revealed to be incomplete, inadequate or inexact…

The Best Fiction From Spain According to El Mundo and El Pais

Last week I mentioned the El Pais best of 2011 list with its unsurprising selection of Javier Marias’ newest book, Los enamoramientos. You can see their list here and read about why they picked the book here. El Mundo, one of El Pais’ competitors has an all Spanish list which you can see here.  Their number one was Yo confieso by Jaume Cabré, a novel that mixes moments from the middle ages to now as a the narrator with Alzheimer remembers in fragments the various scenes that beak and interweave with each other. Of course,  Javier Marias is 3rd on the list and Issac Rosa’s La mano invisible is number 8. The Rosa’s book looked interesting. I saw him on El publico lee earlier this year and the way he wrote the book and its structural elements sounded interesting, along with the story. Their write up is below.

En una vieja nave industrial,un albañil levanta un muro para demolerlo y comenzar de nuevo; una teleoperadora persigue a posibles clientes, un mecánico demonta un motor para montarlo de nuevo, desmontarlo, y volver a empezar, mientras una costurera trabaja sin descanso con metros y metros de tela… Lo que todos y cada uno de ellos soñaban que sería su vida laboral hace tiempo que se ha diluido en el fracaso, la derrota y la frustración. O el miedo al innombrable paro. Implacable, Isaac Rosa (Sevilla, 1974), retrata en esta ambiciosa novela nuestro mundo actual. Sin compasión.

Los enamoramientos from Javier Marías its El Pais’ Best Book of the Year

El Pais has announced their best if 2011. Javier Marias latest book is their best of the year. You can see the whole list here.

Javier Marías desvela en este vídeo parte del proceso de creación de su novela Los enamoramientos (Alfaguara), elegida, por Babelia, como el mejor libro de 2011. La elección es el resultado de una encuesta con 57 críticos y colaboradores de la revista cultural de EL PAÍS. La edición anual y especial de Babelia con los mejores libros del año y los cinco más destacados en ocho géneros y categorías saldrá mañana, y no el sábado como es habitual, debido a las fiestas navideñas. Tras Los enamoramientos, las obras más votadas son (cada una tiene un enlace a una entrevista o crítica publicada este año en Babelia

Javier Marías Interview About His Journalism

Javier Marías was interviewed at El Pais about his journalistic work, which usually consists of a weekly article. I don’t know if any of it has appeared in English, but he is usually a sharp tonged critic of Spain. I don’t read his articles too often because they are very Spain centric. You can get a sense of what he thinks by looking at this phrase “Tradicionalmente, la derecha en España solo dice estupideces”, which translates as “traditionally the right in Spain only says stupid things.”

P. ¿Le cuesta verbalizar ciertas cosas o no se pone límites? Es que, en el del domingo pasado, donde decía que estamos alumbrando una sociedad de chivatos, escribía: “O, dicho peor pero más a las claras, es crear una sociedad de hijos de puta”.

R. No soy muy dado a utilizar este tipo de expresiones pero tampoco me escandalizo con ellas. Y es que lo creo: el peligro de la globalización y de la rapidez con que nos llegan las noticias de todas partes es que cualquier idea es susceptible de ser copiada. Y ahí hablaba de Corea del Sur, donde la delación está remunerada y el ciudadano ejerce de policía cuando ve que alguien se salta un semáforo o deja la basura donde no es debido. Si a alguien le dan dinero por chivarse de alguien, esa es una sociedad de hijos de puta. De gentuza.

P. Lo que ocurre con las reglas de la sociedad es que…

R. Tenemos que tener un cierto margen para saltarnos las reglas, en una época en la que todo tiende a estar regulado. Si no existe ese margen, vivimos en una sociedad imposible. Hay demasiada gente recta, demasiada gente con conciencia y vocación de ser recta. Son el equivalente a los acusicas del colegio.