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Saturday, March 25, 2023

Javier Marías: the great writer and controversies with women

Javier Marías died. And yes, I have no doubt that the Spanish literary world is in mourning. In addition to being a storyteller, he was a translator, essayist and member of the Royal Academy of the Spanish Language. He was an eternal candidate for the Nobel Prize in Literature and a Knight of the Order of Letters, as well as the winner of many important literary awards, such as the José Donoso, the Formentor de las Letras and the Library Lion of the New York Public Library. He received these numerous awards because he dedicated his entire life to writing and did so with skill and quality. He has, to his credit, sixteen novels such as Tomorrow in Battle Think of Me, The Crushes, Your Face Tomorrow (trilogy consisting of Fever the spear, Dance and dream and Poison and shadow and goodbye) and Thomas Levinstonamong others, in addition to books of short stories, essays and more than one hundred journalistic articles.

Marías knew how to capture the spirit of a Spain that went from being the depressed post-war Spain, to the liberated Spain of the Movida, to the rich and developed country where African and Latin American immigrants arrive with the hope of surviving.

I like reading Javier Marías, how could I not? In addition to what I mentioned in previous lines, his work is deeply universal, it is nourished by his multiple and varied readings. In 2018 I wrote for the Gatopardo magazine about his book Berta IslaIt is a novel in which one can guess Marías' literary passions, from Shakespeare to Eliot, from Faulkner, Doyle, Melville and Dickens. It is also a tribute to English literature and culture, with its great classics but also with its pop characters, such as James Bond, of whom Tomás will say at some point ?there have been other Bonds but the only one, the original, is Sean Connery? The spy in the novel talking about the most famous English spy in the world. Another glimpse of the sense of humor that Javier Marías displays with mastery?

That was Javier Marías, the writer. But the opinions of Javier Marías, the journalist (how to separate one from the other? is it possible to do so?), when they had to do with women and feminism were not so honorable: his column in El País of February 11, 2018 caused him a series of criticisms for phrases such as this one, in relation to the rise of #MeToo: "To give credit to victims for the fact of presenting themselves as such is to open the door to revenge, slander and settling of scores", or "Now the MeToo movement and others have established two pseudo-truths: a) that women are always victims; b) that women never lie...". 

While some of Marías's friends, such as fellow writer Arturo Pérez-Reverte defended him to the hiltthousands of users of the networks (especially those who have usersbut also men) that criticized him for said column, full of irresponsible phrases -to say the least- and misogynist, to say it with all its letters. For example: "We do not need to name names to remember the considerable number of young and attractive women who have married decrepit men, not exactly for love, nor for sexual desire either...".

Just May 6, 2022, its journalistic home, El Paíspublished an interview that he made to him about the book of journalistic articles Is the cook a good person? published by Alfaguara this year. In this interview, although he says that "at this point everyone is a feminist" and that "anyone who is not a halter has been one", the author of Sometimes a gentleman She also warns that "there is a so-called fourth-wave feminism that to me contravenes classical feminism. They are saying exaggerated things and nonsense. And above all, there is an error in that they are dangerously close to the intolerance of the Catholic Church in the times of Franco's dictatorship". 

With such a "mistake", Marías refers to the intention of "prohibiting or fining" leering, and talks about what he considers an intrusion in people's freedom. I have no doubt that the writer has never been the victim of one of those looks on the street that make you change sidewalks and slow down, or even provoke you to get off the subway car or the city bus you are on.

I also have no doubt, as write Mexican writer Dahlia de la Cerda, that not all men are potential feminicides, and that those who grow up in contexts of high marginalization and violence have everything to lose in terms of equality, freedom, respect and many of the things we demand from feminism. In other words, as Rita Segato also wrote, there are men oppressed by other men, even by white women and by women from hegemonic social, economic and political strata.

The topic gives for a much deeper and more thoughtful discussion, but I, as a reader, I'll stick with the Javier Marías narrator. As a feminist, I can only think that Javier Marías as an article writer lacked a much deeper analysis before giving his opinion.

Irma Gallo is a reporter and writer. In addition to Península 360 Press, she has collaborated with Letras Libres, Revista de la Universidad de México, Revista Lee Más Gandhi, Gatopardo, Revista Este País, Sin Embargo, El Universal, Newsweek en Español. Her most recent book is Cuando el cielo se pinta de anaranjado. Being a Woman in Mexico (UANL/VF Agencia Literaria, 2020). Twitter: @irmagallo IG: @irmaevangelinagallo.

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