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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."
well, got into an argument with him and, in the heat of the discussion, threatened to kill him. Regardless of whether the death threat was serious or not, Kipling went straight to the police and the brother-in-law ended up behind bars. Kipling always seemed older than his years: although nowadays youthful looks tend to last far longer and are no real measure, there is a photo of him at sixteen (and still at school) which is almost frightening: he’s wearing a peaked cap, metal-rimmed glasses and
approves of those who die young” and blowing his brains out, still had time to murder his immediate superior for having criticised the divine Emperor. Perhaps it is understandable that twenty-five years later, the Japanese army was, as Mishima put it, still depressed, vulnerable, and incapable of hitting back. His desire for death, born at an early age, was not, however, indiscriminate, and while one can understand his terror of being poisoned, since death by such means could hardly be called
publication of her one book of poems entitled Infelicia, which, in fact, she never saw, because she died on August 10, 1868, just a week before it appeared. It is true, however, that during the dozen or so years when she was at her most famous, she was not indifferent to literature or to men of letters, although she spent most of her time on stage, tied to a horse, and it was more because of this and the continuous scandals linked to her name that she became the first internationally known
colleagues loved her and kept up with her more for her inexhaustible abilities as a gossip and as an opener of social doors than for her literary gifts. She was always looking for patrons, but only managed to find rather half-hearted and reluctant ones in James and Conrad and Wells and Hudson. The first of these, much given to nicknames, used to refer to her either as “the Improper Person of Babylon” or “his Purple Patch”, because of the colour of the hat and coat she was wearing the first time
and in the evenings, she would often recite poems by her favourite poet, Heine, and sometimes by Goethe, whom she detested, but nevertheless recited. She loathed Dostoyevsky, although she admired him too, and was a stalwart of Shakespeare. She would frequently quote these lines by Heine: “You wanted to be happy, infinitely happy or infinitely wretched, proud heart, and now you are wretched.” According to those who looked into them, her kohl-lined eyes were full of secrets; they never blinked and