The words

A few days ago Javier Marías, the most brilliant Spanish writer I have ever read, passed away. Marías constructed his novels like Norman Foster constructs his buildings, or George Friedrich Händel constructed his symphonies. The day I read Corazón tan blanco (A Heart So White), twenty-two years ago, was the day I discovered that there are some very good writers, but masters like Marías, who utterly dominate the language and words, and are capable of dissecting human instincts with such astonishing precision, are few and far between. A paragraph from a novel by Marías has to be read once, twice and even three times in order to really comprehend it. And even then, you are not always certain you have fully understood it. Every single one of his endless sentences overpowers you, enveloping you in his precise, beautiful spider’s web, until by persevering, by rereading, by not letting go over hours and days and weeks of reading - Boom! - the miracle takes place, and you enter into a kind of spiritual levitation that will not leave you until the very last word, when everything becomes clear, simple and natural, and for an instant you feel that you have taken part in something big, like when you stand before Picasso’s Les Desmoiselles d’Avignon, or you close your eyes and listen to Pavorotti sing Nessun Dorma, as though an angel were announcing the beginning or the end of the world to us.

If I am thinking and writing about Javier Marías now, it is because once again, I am also thinking about death. Since my father died three years ago, I have pondered on death more and more; I see it differently, in a more direct way, with greater intrigue but also with more serenity, as part of a natural process that somehow propels me to get more out of life, becoming increasingly aware of what it is I want, and what I do not want, what I am going to pour my love and energy into, and who I am not going to devote my time to, because they are not worth it.

In spite of all his greatness and his dozen novels - as imposing as cathedrals - Javier Marías cannot write any more. A great life which, abruptly, has ceased to exist. As I say, since my father left, this has given me much pause for thought.

The only thing we, the living, can continue to do, is learn and love, love and learn. That is the only thing. The only thing that still makes sense.

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