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Comment: All profits go to Housing Works -- NYC's largest HIV/AIDS organization. General wear/soiling, a good reading copy. Some water damage. Paperback.
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A Heart So White (Vintage International) Paperback – March 26, 2013

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Product Details

  • Series: Vintage International
  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (March 26, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 030795076X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307950765
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #108,498 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"By far Spain's best writer today." --Roberto Bolaño

"Brilliant. . . . An entertaining and intelligent novel." --The Washington Post

"The most subtle and gifted writer in contemporary Spanish literature." --Boston Sunday Globe

"Marías is simply astonishing." --The Times Literary Supplement

“Marías is one of the best contemporary writers.” —J. M. Coetzee
"A great writer." --Salman Rushdie

"One of the writers who should get the Nobel Prize is Javier Marías." --Orhan Pamuk
"Stylish, cerebral...Marías is a startling talent...His prose is ambitious, ironic, philosophical, and ultimately compassionate." --The New York Times

“His prose demonstrates an unusual blend of sophistication and accessibility.” —The New Yorker 

 “Javier Marías is such an elegant, witty and persuasive writer that it is tempting simply to quote him at length.” —The Scotsman

"Marías uses language like an anatomist uses the scalpel to cut away the layers of the flesh in order to lay bare the innermost secrets of that strangest of species, the human being." --W. G. Sebald

"His prose possesses an exquisite, almost uncanny observation, recreating moments and moods in hypnotic depth." --The Telegraph

“Javier Marías is a novelist with style . . . His readers enter, through him, a strikingly and disturbingly foreign world.” —Margaret Drabble

"A supreme stylist." --The Times

"Marías writes the kind of old-fashioned speculative prose we associate with Proust and Henry James. . . .  But he also deals in violence, historical and personal, and in the movie titles, politicians, and brand-names and underwear we connect with quite a different kind of writer." --The London Review of Books

About the Author

Javier Marías was born in Madrid in 1951. He has published ten novels, two collections of short stories and several volumes of essays. His work has been translated into thirty-two languages and won a dazzling array of interna­tional literary awards, including the prestigious Dublin IMPAC award for A Heart So White. He is also a highly practiced translator into Spanish of English authors, including Joseph Conrad, Robert Louis Stevenson, Sir Thomas Browne and Laurence Sterne. He has held academic posts in Spain, the United States and in Britain, as Lecturer in Spanish Literature at Oxford University.

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.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 21 people found the following review helpful By R. M. Peterson TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on June 30, 2013
Format: Paperback
[What follows is my review, slightly revised, of the edition of A HEART SO WHITE published by New Directions.]

I should state upfront that while I am very taken with the writing of Javier Marías, I can well understand that it will not appeal to everyone. Relatively little seems to occur in his novels, and what does happen often proceeds at a glacial pace, as Marías or his narrator painstakingly examines rather mundane situations, occurrences, even gestures, and spins out various possible causes and consequences, possible pasts and futures. The writing tends to be dense, but for me it always is engaging, and the reader's reward is a cascade of insightful ideas and perspectives on modern cosmopolitan life.

The opening chapter of A HEART SO WHITE is a brilliant six-page account (all one paragraph) of the suicide of a young woman in the middle of a dinner party, at the end of which it is revealed that she was the narrator's father's wife. Shortly, we learn that the narrator's father, Ranz, later married the suicide's sister, who then became the mother of the narrator. In a sense, the remainder of the book is a quest, somewhat reluctant and oft-diverted, to find out why Ranz's previous wife (and the narrator's aunt) committed suicide, something that Ranz has kept secret for the 35+ years since. In the course of this quest, Marías explores many aspects of secrets and poses the question, "Is it better not to know?" - which leads to the related question, "Is it really possible to suppress the desire to know?", and then the further question, of course, is, "In the end, is knowledge really possible at all?
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Daniel Myers VINE VOICE on June 18, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I don't quite know how it is, but reading anything penned by Javier Marías is like slowly entering catacombs or hearing echoes reverberating in a mausoleum that abide with one and continue to reverberate long after the reader has turned the final page and reascends, as it were, to what is called life, realising how much of life is not life - commonly understood - but a sort of play-acting, that what is of import is and must forever remain unsaid, interred in the reader's heart and mind, for to speak of it is to inevitably deceive, to lie.

As Marías puts it better than I, "Sometimes I have the feeling that nothing happens, because nothing happens without interruption, nothing lasts or endures or is ceaselessly remembered, and even the most monotonous and routine of existences, by its apparent repetitiveness, gradually cancels itself out, negates itself, until nothing is anything and no one is anyone they were before, and the weak wheel of the world is pushed along by forgetful beings who hear and see and know what is not said, never happens, is unknowable and unverifiable."

This is the central meditation of the book, but not its central trope which, as per usual with Marías, is taken from Shakespeare, Macbeth in this case, and throughout the book, with our narrator, his newly wed wife, and, mostly I should say, the extended lives of his equally extended coterie of family and friends, we come to see ourselves as some version of bloody-handed Macbeth or, perhaps much worse, cold-hearted Lady Macbeth, or both at different times.

Again to Marías, "Macbeth dared to say: `I have done the deed,' he said it at the moment he'd done it, who would dare to do as much, not so much do it as say it...
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Format: Paperback
I read this slowly, usually just tackling one or two chapters in a sitting and I'm glad I did so. Marias's prose has a masterful, controlled quality that many seasoned novelists never attain, it's the sort of writing that's so psychologically introspective, so meditative, that you just kind of want to linger inside of it instead of rushing through to complete it. There are moments in this book where time seems to almost stop and you feel like you are looking at the incommensurability of life itself. Marias's ruminations on secrets, on how fundamentally unknowable the lives of other people are, are gorgeously poised and interrogated ad infinitum. If the novel feels a bit repetitive, that's because its subject matter, about knowledge and non-knowledge and our relationship to both, is something we never stop encountering. Highly Recommended
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on October 18, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Written by a Spaniard, the style reflects my favorite Central American and South American writers- rich visuals, tradition, flavors of colonial and religious presence, sensual characters and surroundings, and deep insight into the human psyche. The main characters, international translators, tell a story with in a story all the while learning more about themselves as individuals and as a couple, but also the fallabibity and survivalabity of humankind. The "action" is more of the descriptive and universal stories so if u like that kind of read you will enjoy this book.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Tony Covatta on November 14, 2013
Format: Paperback
Where do you go with a story where a young woman, married for a week, commits suicide during a dinner party, and the bereft husband turns out to be the narrator's father? Well, for sure, part of the story must have to do with figuring out why the unhappy bride did herself in, and that predictably enough takes up a lot of space in this relatively short (279pp.) novel. But that is not the only game in town. This story line is mixed in quite deftly with the narrator's tale of his growing comfort with his own marriage to Luisa, whom first we meet while they are on their own honeymoon in Havana.

So past is mixed with present and we learn about the past as Juan, the narrator explores that as well as his own feelings about Luisa, about marriage and about his, their and our relation to the world around us. One of the repellent aspects of what is finally a very good novel is the bleak, untrusting world in which Marias places his characters. One of his metaphors describes life as "a weak turning world." The forces of entropy and friction drain the life out of life, and in the end everything adds up to nothing. This vitiates our attempts to learn about the past and about the living in the past as well as those living with us to the extent that they are not conscious, as "The sleeping and the dead are as but pictures," (Macbeth), a thought the narrator comes back to time and again.

Beyond the metaphors the world we see is of untrusting and evasive people for the most part. Juan's father, Ranz, is a most unreliable sort. He has a major role in the past action of the novel, and it is up to Luisa to finally pry it out of him. Juan's relationship with him is too weak and flawed to allow the truth to emerge.
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