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An affectionate and very funny gallery of twenty great world authors from the pen of "the most subtle and gifted writer in contemporary Spanish literature" (The Boston Globe).
In addition to his own busy career as "one of Europe's most intriguing contemporary writers" (TLS), Javier Marías is also the translator into Spanish of works by Hardy, Stevenson, Conrad, Faulkner, Nabokov, and Laurence Sterne. His love for these authors is the touchstone of Written Lives. Collected here are twenty pieces recounting great writers' lives, "or, more precisely, snippets of writers' lives." Thomas Mann, Rilke, Arthur Conan Doyle, Turgenev, Djuna Barnes, Emily Brontë, Malcolm Lowry, and Kipling appear ("all fairly disastrous individuals"), and "almost nothing" in his stories is invented.
Like Isak Dinesen (who "claimed to have poor sight, yet could spot a four-leaf clover in a field from a remarkable distance away"), Marías has a sharp eye. Nabokov is here, making "the highly improbable assertion that he is 'as American as April in Arizona,'" as is Oscar Wilde, who, in debt on his deathbed, ordered up champagne, "remarking cheerfully, 'I am dying beyond my means.'" Faulkner, we find, when fired from his post office job, explained that he was not prepared "to be beholden to any son-of-a-bitch who had two cents to buy a stamp." Affection glows in the pages of Written Lives, evidence, as Marías remarks, that "although I have enjoyed writing all my books, this was the one with which I had the most fun."
Praise For Written Lives…
— Publishers Weekly
It is difficult to be moderate about the charm of these brief portraits...Delicious, slyly ironic.... A delightful volume.
— Michael Dirda - The Washington Post Book World
They may be miniatures, but they're curious, addictive, and profound in their brevity.... The next thing Marías deserves is the Nobel Prize.
— The Observer [London]
His prose demonstrates an unusual blend of sophistication and accessibility.
— Wyatt Mason - The New Yorker
A great writer.
— Salman Rushdie
I am greatly impressed by the quality of Marías's writing.
— W. G. Sebald
Javier Marías is in my opinion one of the best contemporary writers.
— J. M. Coetzee
Mini-biographies of classic authors like Nabokov, Wilde, Rimbaud, Faulkner and Brontë written from the point of view of everything that went wrong in their lives. But funny! A must-read for any bibliophile.
— Caroline Stanley - Flavorwire
New Directions, 9780811216890, 208pp.
Publication Date: May 17, 2007
About the Author
Award-winning translator Margaret Jull Costa lives in England.