I discovered the fiction of Javier Marias back in August 1997 while travelling to Edinburgh for the Summer Festival.
In my backpack I had his book A Heart So White translated into Greek.
I got fascinated by Javier Marias’ obsession with secrets, his pedantic description of gestures – often left unfinished – and by the long sentences, with many twists and parenthetical phrases that ask for special attention and decoding.
Sentences-riddles like the plots and human stories he examines with the obsession and intensity of a detective-philosopher.
His main characters are sort of captives in a web of destiny or haunted by a dark past. If they manage to remember, if they trace back the deep-seated secrets and guilts, resonating a Greek tragedy, the characters may find redemption.
Next stop down memory lane, I am dressed in a colourful skirt and I walk in Seville in May 2011 visiting Feria del Libro. I remember the afternoon pleasantly fresh after a warm and humid day, and the location of Feria a vibrant hub.
In my bag I was carrying the same book – this time in the hotel I have left not a backpack, but a suitcase with floral dresses, hats and swimming suits.
My freshly acquired Spanish words deserted me as I stood in front of Javier Marias, a giant of literature.
You think you know the writer intimately if you have read a few of his books and interviews. You may have taken his thoughts as confessions addressed to you only; this is part of the magic of reading fiction, novel in particular. However, a favourite writer is another unknown person – if you happen to come across him or her once in your lifetime you are lucky.
At that precise moment Javier Marias was about to enter a lecture room packed with people. He must have ‘translated’ my gestures, same as he does in his so visual long descriptions, because he took my book, signed and handed it back to me.
Later, this widely traveled book was on the table, a dinner companion, next to a plate of tapas. I was looking at the signature in the first page. It felt like magic that this book flew me on his wings from Greece to Edingburg to the centre of Seville.
Magic happens if the phrase: ‘with a book you travel’ is taken literally!
Lisa Samloglou 2019© All rights reserved
“My hands are of your colour; but I shame
To wear a heart so white”
– Macbeth, William Shakespeare
From A Heart So White, Javier Marias