LA ZONA FANTASMA

A MONTHLY COLUMN

by Javier Marías
“LITERARY LIFE AND DEATH”

I have been writing this column [for El Pais] for thirty-three months now, and on occasion I find myself obliged to ask my readers (the ones with the sharp memories, at least) to forgive me for revisiting certain topics that I have discussed before. But reality can be insistent, things have a way of staying the same, and sometimes, when history repeats itself over and over again, I feel I have no choice but to acknowledge the persistence of things.

About two years ago, I wrote about a literary prize, the Ciudad de Torrevieja award, which was news to me at the time but which the newspapers and television stations in Spain were buzzing about at length for one reason and one reason alone: because it was, at €360,000, the second-most-generous literary award in Spain, surpassed only by the Planeta Prize. According to the mayor of Torrevieja, the city that sponsored the award and in whose name it was offered, the prize was established “in an effort to improve the image of the city, which has always been associated with the tourist trade of the middle class” (and more recently, it seems, of mafias). I titled that particular article “Literature as Soap and Whitewash.”

Translated from the Spanish by Kristina Cordero

We hope you enjoy this excerpt.

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Javier Marías was born in Madrid in 1951. English-language translations of his novels include All Souls, A Heart So White, Tomorrow in the Battle Think on Me, and the short-story collection When I Was Mortal. This spring Believer Books will publish his second novel, Voyage Along the Horizon.

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