Javier Marías: a literary icon

The recent death of writer, translator and columnist Javier Marías (1951-2022) has deeply saddened the literary world. His unique style of writing, his wittiness and his exquisite command of language (in Spanish and in English) won him numerous accolades and many followers both in Spain and abroad. His death on 11 September at the age of 70 came far too early for a writer in his prime who many believed was an obvious candidate for the Nobel prize in Literature. 

El hombre que no parecía saber nada by Javier Marías
Javier Marías (El hombre que no parecía querer nada, 744:39.c.95.435)

Javier Marías graduated in Philosophy and Literature from the Complutense University of Madrid. He taught Spanish literature and translation theory at the University of Oxford between 1983 and 1985, at Wellesley College in Massachusetts in 1984, and at the Complutense University of Madrid between 1986 and 1990. 

He made his debut as a writer at the age of nineteen with his novel Los dominios del lobo and had an extensive and prolific career. Translation shaped and influenced his work. Throughout his career, he expertly translated Joseph Conrad, Thomas Hardy, Thomas Browne, Vladimir Nabokov and Lawrence Sterne, amongst other writers (he won the Fray Luis de León national translation award for his translation of Sterne’s Tristram Shandy in 1979). 

His works have been translated into more than forty languages and published in over fifty countries.  He wrote sixteen novels, eight essays and six short stories, as well as his regular weekly column for the Spanish newspaper El País. In 2006, he was elected to the Real Academia de la Lengua Española (Royal Spanish Academy), the institution responsible for preserving the unity and effective use of the Spanish language in the Spanish speaking world. And, in 2021, he became a member of Britain’s Royal Society of Literature as an International Writer, the first Spanish writer to obtain this distinction. 

The University Library has good coverage of his works in Spanish as well as in English translation. His best-known works appear below, listed in order of appearance more or less: 

The Library also has electronic access to his works Lección pasada de moda: letras de lengua (Digitalia Hispánica, available here) and Donde todo ha sucedido: al salir del cine (Digitalia Hispánica, available here). You can see a list of English translations of his works clicking here

Sonia Morcillo

Part shoemaker, part actor

In December 2015 we posted a piece about translator Ralph Manheim, written by his widow Julia Allen-Manheim. At the same time Mrs Allen-Manheim presented the Library with several of Ralph Manheim’s unpublished literary translations of texts by authors such as Arthur Schnitzler, Ödön von Horváth and Christoph Hein. (Enquire in Manuscripts Reading Room for MS Add. 10108.) The donation also includes the typescript of an unpublished lecture Ralph Manheim gave at Indiana University on November 4 1981, which gives a fascinating description of his life as a literary translator, and includes references to Michel Tournier, Rainer Maria Rilke, Adolf Hitler, Thomas Mann, Karl Jaspers, Ernst Cassirer, Bertolt Brecht, Louis Ferdinand Céline and Peter Handke. The following extracts give a flavour of the whole …

— Unpublished literary translations of texts

“I say I drifted into it [i.e. the trade of literary translator]. If that sounds disparaging, I’d like to correct that impression. One can drift into good things as well as bad. I think very highly of the trade. As I see it, a literary translator is part shoemaker and part actor. Shoemaker because he works alone and much of his effort goes into craftsmanship, into motions that he masters by repetition and testing; actor because if he takes his work seriously he has to impersonate his author…

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Ralph Manheim

Ralph Manheim was a prolific and gifted American translator, who spent the last seven years of his life in Cambridge. He currently has 226 entries in the University Library catalogue, and although he died in 1992, many of his translations remain in print or are regularly reissued. He worked mostly on German and French, but he also translated from Dutch, Serbo-Croatian and Polish; and, during the course of his work, he built a close working relationship with a number of major European writers from the second half of the 20th century. He is, perhaps, best known for his literary translations, but he translated a significant body of non-fiction in the fields of philosophy, psychology, politics, history of religions, art history and belles-lettres. Ironically, the work that launched him on his career was Mein Kampf.

Guest contributor Julia Allen-Manheim here paints a vivid portrait of some of her husband’s literary connections. Continue reading

Dovzhenko/Manchevski : silence, speech, and the gaze

The term’s third set of CamCREES notes cover the 18 February seminar at which three researchers, including two PhD students, discussed the renowned filmmakers Oleksandr Dovzhenko and Milcho Manchevski.  Using the example of the recently published Dovzhenko diaries discussed at the session, the notes also look at open-access and closed-access classification in the University Library.

The third CamCREES session of the Lent term started with a talk by Dr Elena Tchougounova-Paulson about her work on the papers of the great Soviet-era director, producer, and screenwriter Oleksandr Dovzhenko (Aleksandr in Russian).  His archive is collection 2081 in RGALI, the Russian State Archive of Literature and Art, where Dr Tchougounova-Paulson was a researcher.  Descriptions of the Dovzhenko collection, whose contents number over 2,500 items, can be read (in Russian) starting from the collection’s front page here on RGALI’s website.

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