Dark Back of Time (Paperback)
New Directions Publishing Corporation, 9780811215701, 336pp.
Publication Date: June 1, 2004
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Called by its author a "false novel," Dark Back of Time begins with the tale of the odd effects of publishing All Souls, his witty and sardonic 1989 Oxford novel. All Souls is a book Marias swears to be fiction, but which its "characters"--the real-life dons and professors and bookshop owners who have "recognized themselves"--fiercely maintain to be a roman a clef. With the sleepy world of Oxford set into fretful motion by a world that never "existed," Dark Back of Time begins an odyssey into the nature of identity ("we do not know anyone entirely, not even ourselves") and of time. Marias weaves together autobiography (the brother who died as a child; the loss of his mother), a legendary kingdom, strange ghostly literary figures, halls of mirrors, a one-eyed pilot, a curse in Havana, and a bullet lost in Mexico. Dark Back of Time has been acclaimed here as "superb" (Review of Contemporary Fiction), "fantastically original" (Talk), "brilliant" (Virginia Quarterly Review), and "a rare gift" (The New York Times Book Review). "In the best manner of Borges," The Hudson Review commented that this hybrid is "lush and mysterious."