Tras el reciente viaje de Javier Marías a Estados Unidos, la revista The New Yorker publica este artículo de Jonathan Blitzer del que ofrecemos un fragmento.
The Spanish novelist Javier Marías arrived at the Frick, one morning last month, looking shaken. “The Americans, it seems, have just committed suicide,” he said, in a vaguely British accent. This was his first visit to New York in seven years, and his timing had backfired. It was November 9th. Marías, who is sixty-five years old with wispy gray hair, wore a dark overcoat and carried a large umbrella. He begged my pardon—might he smoke a cigarette before we stepped inside? He pulled one from a brass case in his breast pocket, and then, changing the topic, told me that something rather extraordinary had just happened.
In the cab to the museum, he had been talking to the driver, a thickset American man, about the election. (Marías interrupted himself here. Was “sturdy” a word that could be used to describe a person in English, or was “robust” better? He opted for the latter, and continued.) The driver asked him what he did for a living, and Marías, who is often cited as the likely future recipient of a Nobel Prize, responded with characteristic gentlemanly understatement: “I write books.” The driver then asked him, out of the blue, “So, did you ever know Ortega y Gasset?” He was referring to José Ortega y Gasset, the liberal Spanish philosopher, who lived during the darkest years of Francisco Franco’s dictatorship. It wasn’t just that the driver was an unlikely Hispanophile; he’d mentioned someone of profound personal significance to his passenger. Marías’s father, Julián, a philosopher, was a close disciple of Ortega y Gasset’s. Marías had grown up in his thrall. “It’s just remarkable,” he said. “Can you believe the coincidence?”
Marías likes to quote Laurence Sterne to describe his craft: “I progress as I digress.” When a dramatic event occurs in one of his novels, it’s usually as a prelude to a string of rambling anecdotes or some lengthy existential musing. In “Tomorrow in the Battle Think On Me,” first published in 1994, a sudden death gives rise to a detailed consideration of the worst ways to go (“dying in the middle of shaving, with one cheek still covered in foam, half-shaven for all eternity”). At the start of the novel “A Heart So White,” from 1992, the mysterious suicide of a newlywed is followed by an excursus on the nature of marital intimacy. One reflection leads to another, and another, until a story line slyly emerges. Marías’s novels are cerebral and allusive, long-winded in the best sense. As Colm Tóibín once wrote, “As a novelist, he has a way of posing as a philosopher . . . all the more to fool the reader and cause great shock when the novel turns out to have a plot after all.”