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All Souls Paperback – November, 1996

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 210 pages
  • Publisher: Harvill Pr (November 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1860461859
  • ISBN-13: 978-1860461859
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.8 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,927,781 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

"Oxford is, without a doubt, one of the cities of the world where the least work gets done." So opens this arch portrait of a university town, marked by languid ennui and gossipy, semifossilized dons. The point of view is that of an unnamed visiting Spaniard scholar, whose memory flits among several eccentric people and events. Thus the recollection doesn't unfold chronologically. The reader learns early on that the Spaniard carried on a desultory affair with a don's wife, whom he met at "High Table," a stylized Oxfordian dinner that Marias spoofs to good effect. The personality of that wife, Clare, emerges in a discrete fashion, with dots of conversations and digressions of personal revelations that say, verily, this will not be an affair to remember. The Spaniard seems better acquainted with Cromer-Blake, a sickly professor, closet gay, and guide to Oxford's picayune atmosphere of bored superiority. Though nothing eventful occurs, Marias' refined prose achieves an appealing characterization of place. Gilbert Taylor

From Kirkus Reviews

The first US appearance of an accomplished and elegant novel, first published in Spain in 1990, by the author of A Heart So White (p. 18) and other highly praised fiction. Set in Oxford, and drenched in the ambience of academic myopia and departmental power politics, it recounts in polished Jamesian prose the two-year lectureship enjoyed and endured there by its narrator, a visiting Spanish scholar. He encounters an alluring married woman tutor whose affair with him piques her conscience rather less than it does his. She, in fact, can't even be bothered to keep silent about their intimacy. Other complications are provided by a richly observed bevy of colleagues who exhibit most of the commoner academic and British eccentricities (notable among them are an economist who will discourse at length about his obsession with an 18th-century cider tax, and a professor of literature who moonlights as a successful author of ``horror blockbusters''). There's little plot beyond the (unnamed) narrator's romantic intriguing, but it's a rare civilized pleasure to overhear his incisive analyses of cultural, temperamental, and sexual differences between Britons and Iberians, or to follow his peregrinations through the meaner streets of Oxford (whose beggars elicit a feeling of kinship in this deracinated wanderer) or several antiquarian bookstores, ever in search of the odd and engaging. The novel is as much a record of life at Oxford as it is a narrative. Its characters, though vividly drawn, are really little more than functional, especially as measured against Mar¡as's only real character creation here: his thoughtful protagonist, whose confusions and insights alike more often than not sparkle with the brilliance of aphorism (``In Oxford the only thing anyone is truly interested in is money, followed some way behind by information, which can always be useful as a means of acquiring money'')--translated with deadpan clarity and precision by the ever-dependable Costa. Another stunning work from one of Europe's best younger writers. -- Copyright ©1996, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Ian Muldoon on January 29, 2005
Format: Paperback
A novel which appears to be about nothing but suggests everything. It is set in one of the two most famous English Universities, and very little of moment occurs in its pages - there is no murder, no scandals, no international spies but en passant the novel alludes to all of these things. It concerns itself with the minutia of daily living as seen through the eyes of the single Spanish lecturer. The eccentricities, gentleness, and foibles of this section of English life are a central concern with the realisation that far from being an ivory tower where inhabitants concern themselves with matters of a higher order, of philosophy, of God, and existence, they spend their time as best friend Dr Cromer-Blake expostulates, thinking about men and women - everything one does, everything one thinks, everything else that one thinks and plots about is a medium through which to think about them. Even wars are fought in order to be able to start thinking again, to renew our unending thinking about our men and women, about those who were or could be ours, about those we know already and those we will never know, about those who were young and those who will be young , about those who shared our beds and those who never will (p64). In the end, there is a sadness when the novel closes, a sweet sorrow and an acknowledgement of connection between his pushing his newborn son along in a pram and Marriott dragging his one legged dog along, or the Gypsy flowerseller dragging her wares along. It is a love story, but expresses itself in a love of humanity which happens to be that situated in Oxford, England. A love story that echoes Donne's lines that no man is island entire unto himself even though he may often feel he is!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 5, 2004
Format: Paperback
Only read this book if you love literature.
Marias is the type of gifted writer who makes telling compelling stories 'look easy,' and thus inspires us to wish that we had written down our own adventures, perceptions, and loves. Although it is fiction, it caused quite an uproar at Oxford/Cambridge, because the professors there read themselves into the book's characters.
All Souls, from the opening pages to the end, is an evocative, inventive, textured, and fabulous novel.
Five stars, all the way.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By R. M. Peterson TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on June 15, 2008
Format: Paperback
I came to ALL SOULS having read Marias' "Tomorrow in the Battle Think on Me" a month ago and being very impressed with it. My lukewarm assessment of ALL SOULS is no doubt in part a product of frustrated high expectations; ALL SOULS (published in 1989) is a comparatively pale and shallow fore-runner of "Tomorrow" (which was published in 1994).

In ALL SOULS, the un-named first-person narrator recounts what he wants to share with the reader about his two years as a visiting don at Oxford in Spanish literature. (The story is told more than two years after his tenure at Oxford, when he is back in Madrid and recently married, to Luisa, and more recently a father.) The back cover blurbs portray ALL SOULS as an "Oxford novel", marked by "wit and humour." While the novel may well realistically portray a young don's life at Oxford, it is not so much a send-up of Oxford or a particularly funny novel (although the first few pages of a chapter on dinner at "high tables" are quite funny) as it is a novel about purported relationships that end up being shallow and virtually inconsequential, and as such could be set in virtually any contemporary cosmopolitan spot. The narrator goes through the motions and conventions of friendship but through it all he remains emotionally and psychologically withdrawn and very self-absorbed. Here, the narrator's principal friends are two other Oxford dons and Clare Bayes, with whom the narrator has an adulterous affair of convenience for most of his two years in Oxford. The other principal character in the novel is a long-dead, actual historical figure from English letters, John Gawsworth.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Fernando Pedrosa on February 24, 2006
Format: Paperback
The book is excelent and the AMazon's service is perfect
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More About the Author

Javier Marías is an award-winning Spanish novelist. He is also a translator and columnist, as well as the current king of Redonda. He was born in Madrid in 1951 and published his first novel at the age of nineteen. He has held academic posts in Spain, the US (he was a visiting professor at Wellesley College) and Britain, as a lecturer in Spanish Literature at Oxford University. He has been translated into 34 languages, and more than six million copies of his books have been sold worldwide. In 1997 he won the Nelly Sachs Award; the Comunidad de Madrid award in 1998; in 2000 the Grinzane Cavour Award, the Alberto Moravia Prize, and the Dublin IMPAC Award. He also won the Spanish National Translation Award in 1979 for his translation of Tristram Shandy in 1979. He was a professor at Oxford University and the Complutense of Madrid. He currently lives in Madrid.

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