Wednesday, July 10, 2002

Javier Marias When I Was Mortal (1996, English 2000) - I first came across Marias in an essay he contributed to an anthology where he surprisingly mentioned some obscure writer, Count Stenbock I think. The rest of the piece was quite interesting but this collection of short stories is quite not. Marias must have something of a reputation since several of his books have been translated into English and surely only a reputation could have resulted in the publication of such useless work as this. Though at times the stories seem intended to capture echoes of Poe, they instead seem more like tentative sketches of a beginning writer. Nearly all hinge on a first-person narrator in the midst of everyday circumstances who encounters something hinting at much beyond the everyday. Unfortunately hints are not literature either: There's rarely any story, hardly anything resembling characterization, blandly dull prose (fault of the translator?).