by Javier Marías

One of the best indicators of the increasing audacity of our modern age is the pressing need so many people feel to be a “victim” of something, to enjoy the prestige of victimism. Without a doubt, it has its advantages—after all, its objective is to make other people feel guilty, and to reap benefits from that guilt—financial, material and otherwise. Who cares if the victims—and I mean the real victims, not invented ones—have been dead for centuries, or that the unjust circumstances under which they suffered have long since been outlawed: their “heirs”—in general self-proclaimed—continue asking for settlements from the supposed “heirs” of those who committed the injustice back in the day, and, I am afraid, this will probably go on for the rest of eternity. The more incommensurable the debt, the more likely these modern-day “victims” are nothing but charlatans and opportunists. I need not mention here that this almost universal trend has put an end to certain qualities that were once considered virtues, like dignity, pride, integrity, aversion to receiving handouts. And it has done away with some defects, as well: arrogance, superiority, scorn. People no longer feel the slightest bit of shame about calling themselves “victims,” or “secularly oppressed,” or perpetually subjugated, offended, harassed, and humiliated, and he who does not present himself in one of these categories will have little to say for himself, much less to gain, and doubtless will soon become a member of the other club, that of the “executioners” and the “oppressors.”

Translated from the Spanish by Kristina Cordero

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Javier Marías was born in Madrid in 1951. English-language translations of his books include the novels All Souls, A Heart So White, and Tomorrow in the Battle Think on Me, and the short-story collection When I Was Mortal.

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