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Spanish novelist Javier Marías. Getty Images
Spanish novelist Javier Marías. Photo: Getty Images

Leading Spanish novelist Javier Marías dies aged 70

The renowned novelist, who spent part of his childhood in the United States, died in Madrid at age 70

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Spanish writer Javier Marías (born in Madrid in 1951), author of novels such as A Heart so White, The Infatuations and Your Face Tomorrow, all of them translated into English and published in the U.S., died on Sunday, Sept. 11, 2022, in Madrid at the age of 70 after a battle with pneumonia. 

The son of Republican intellectuals, he spent part of his childhood with his family in the United States, as his father, a philosopher, was forbidden to teach at Spanish universities during Franco's regime and taught at several universities in Massachusetts.

Back in Spain, Marías graduated with a degree in Literature and Philosophy from the Complutense University of Madrid, specializing in English philology. He taught Spanish Literature at Oxford University and Wellesley College; and as a professor of Translation Theory at the Institute of Modern Languages and Translators of the Complutense University.

A regular contributor to Spanish newspaper El País (his last opinion column, which he left ready in July for publication after holiday, was published on Saturday, Sept. 10 as a tribute to him. Marías began his career as a writer in 1971, at the age of 19, with Los dominios del lobo (The domains of the wolf). 

In 1972, he published Travesía del horizonte, and in 1978 El monarca del tiempo. That same year his translation of Laurence Sterne's novel The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy also published, for which he was awarded the Fray Luis de León Translation Prize the following year. In 1983, his fourth novel, The Century, was published.
 
"If there is one activity I miss, it is translation. I abandoned it decades ago, with small exceptions (a poem, a short story, the quotations from English and French authors that appear in my novels), and nothing would prevent me from returning to it, except my own books and how badly paid this essential work, undoubtedly one of the most important in the world, continues to be," Marías wrote in his posthumous column for El País.
 
Between 2002 and 2007, he embarked on his magnum opus: the monumental trilogy that, under the title Your Face Tomorrow, was his approach to the Spanish Civil War based on an episode inspired by the betrayal of his father, a Republican philosopher. 
 
In 2012, after publishing one of his best-known novels, Los enamoriamientos (The Infatuations) Marías was awarded the Spanish National Narrative Prize, a prize granted by the Spanish Ministry of Culture. Marías rejected the award and said he was grateful for "the kindness of the jury" and hoped that his position would not be taken "as an ugly one."

"I am being consistent with what I have always said, that I would never receive an institutional award (...) I have rejected any remuneration that came from the public treasury. I have said on many occasions that in the event that it was granted to me I could not accept any award," he said.

What he did accept was his nomination for a seat in the Real Academia Española de la Lengua (RAE), in 2005, and did so with a speech entitled "Sobre la dificultad de contar" ("On the difficulty of counting"). 
 
Published in 46 languages and 59 countries, Marías is one of the most internationally-recognized Spanish-language authors. More than 8 million copies of his books have been sold worldwide.

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