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Dark Back of Time

3.86  ·  Rating Details  ·  414 Ratings  ·  42 Reviews
Called by its author a false novel, Dark Back of Time begins with the tale of the odd effects of publishing All Souls, his witty and sardonic 1989 Oxford novel. All Souls is a book Marias swears to be fiction, but which its characters--the real-life dons and professors and bookshop owners who have recognized themselves--fiercely maintain to be a roman a clef. With the slee ...more
Paperback, 336 pages
Published June 2nd 2004 by New Directions Publishing Corporation (first published 1998)
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(showing 1-30 of 945)
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Mike Puma
Apr 22, 2011 Mike Puma rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: the few

Imagine, if you will or if you can, W.G. Sebald meets Roberto Bolaño, imagine fiction that crackles with ideas pouring like lava from stories told with grace and language one rarely encounters—a gift, just for you, from someone you’ve never met and likely won’t ever meet, yet someone you can know intimately from the quality of their offering which you receive wrapped in a brilliant, shiny paper tied together with shimmering strings in a Gordian knot which requires only your patient willingness

Jul 28, 2012 Kris rated it it was amazing
First, I recommending that you read Mike Puma's review, since he provides such a thoughtful and comprehensive picture of this novel. Mike's accomplishment is all the more impressive because of the unique style and approach Marías takes in this novel. Is he writing a memoir or a novel? Is he providing historical analysis based on primary documents, or presenting a fictional depiction of historical characters? What is real? What relationship do storytelling and narrative play in our constructing o ...more
Ian GalaDali
Fake Novel, Fake Memoir

Two primary concerns drive "Dark Back of Time": the relationship between fact and fiction, and the effect of the passage of time (including ephemerality and the desire to achieve immortality through creative endeavour, such as fiction).

The novel is a sequel of sorts to Marias' novel "All Souls". It arose out of allegations that the earlier novel was a roman a clef or thinly disguised autobiography or memoir. It is in effect a literary denial of these allegations.

To this ex
M. Sarki
Nov 17, 2013 M. Sarki rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: very smart people
Recommended to M. by: Mike Puma
Undoubtedly a five-star book but the fact that I only "really liked it" is due to all the historical references that bogged down for me, especially near the end. And that is no fault of the writer, it is I who am the culprit here. History is something I respect and take seriously, but in general it bores me and I sometimes fall asleep, especially involved with lectures in large halls. But I do have other good qualities enough that it is hoped would and will forgive me of my sins against historic ...more
Apr 08, 2014 Michael rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Without a thorough googling, it’s hard to know what is real and what is fiction in this book. Being called by its author a ‘false novel’ helps as much as it doesn’t. Dark Back of Time begins by rather casually delineating the insistent claims of a number of people (who may just be characters) that they are the real counterparts to the author’s proclaimed characters of his previous novel, All Souls (which, for all the reader knows, is only a fictional counterpart of the real). What seems to emerg ...more
May 27, 2011 Abailart rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
Astonishing and wonderful Sebalesque romp, this never-ending torrent in which fictions, stories come to you without any volition on your part, the absolute blurring of 'fact' and 'fiction'. It is a truth universally denied that we all live in a state of denial - cover emptiness with stories as randomly assembled as the ocean of infinitely possible combination of infinite chance: we try to either pin down an object, a place, a person, a time or at best try to make linkages between the same, as if ...more
Stephen P
Dec 22, 2012 Stephen P rated it really liked it
Marias let's us know at the very beginning how to read and understand this philosophical, literary novel.

"I believe I've still never mistaken fiction for reality, though I have mixed them together more than once, as everyone does, not only novelists or writers but everyone who has recounted anything since the time we know began..."

"Anyone can relate an anecdote about something that happened, and the simple fact of saying it already distorts and twists it, language can't reproduce events and s
Oct 12, 2013 jeremy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
i believe i've still never mistaken fiction for reality, though i have mixed them together more than once, as everyone does, not only novelists or writers but everyone who has recounted anything since the time we know began, and no one in that known time has done anything but tell and tell, or prepare and ponder a tale, or plot one.
while javier marías may have never confused the two, many readers of his 1989 novel, all souls (todas las almas), clearly had. the spanish writer's earlier book, er
Jim Fonseca
Sep 06, 2015 Jim Fonseca rated it it was amazing
Shelves: spanish-authors
This is a many-faceted book. First of all, it's a metanovel; a novel in reaction to another novel - the author's All Souls a fictional account of academic intrigue at Oxford. He fictionalizes an account of reaction to his novel, particularly how, despite his best efforts to NOT make it a roman a clef, everyone saw themselves and their colleagues in it. The author fictionalized reality and discovered that fiction became reality. It's also a metanovel because the author frequently draws a distinct ...more
Jan 28, 2011 Cody rated it it was amazing
This is Marias's response to the critical assumptions that his novel *All Souls* is a roman à clef--a claim which he vehemnetly denies. *Dark Back of Time* is part philosophical treatise, part apologia, part short story collection, part extended essay.

At the core of this text is an investigation into the aspects of life which strike us as too fantastical to be purely coincidental. Despite some miraculous events that occur in Marias's life, and the lives of those he weaves into the amazing liter
Andrea Carolina
Hace rato, rato, no leo, y supongo que no leeré en un buen tiempo porque si he estado medio ocupada de aquí a lo que resta del año lo estaré más, y si voy a leer algo será en algunas vacaciones concedidas por mi misma (quien sabe cuándo) donde me levante de la cama solo para ir al baño (amo leer entre las cobijas todo el día ahí metida). A parte también quisiera vacaciones para ir a la Luis Ángel, y pasarme allá también todo el día, para ir a cine sola (podría decir que hace años no hago eso), i ...more
Jim Leckband
Jan 31, 2016 Jim Leckband rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A meditation on the intersection of fiction and reality - namely what happens when the characters of a roman à clef are taken over by their fictional avatars. Yes, we are in postmodern territory, but this has been happening since Don Quixote. Marías wrote a book based on his Oxford days, All Souls, about ten or so years before this book. The "Dark Back of Time" is Marías' account of his investigations into how that book affected the people in Oxford who saw themselves in the book. The latter par ...more
Feb 14, 2014 Jan rated it liked it
A very talented and accomplished writer uses gorgeous language to play an elaborate intellectual game about the distinctions between fiction and nonfiction and between possibility and reality. Along the way he treats the popular idea, devolved from physics, that each moment or action is a branching point in realities or dimensions.
Colin N.
Jul 25, 2011 Colin N. rated it it was amazing
"So we spend our lives pretending to be unique and chosen when in fact we're interchangeable, each the random outcome of a spin of the wheel of fortune at a dank, decrepit carnival. The pretense is necessary, but what's bad about it is that our actions or misfortunes or good luck make most of us forget, in the end that that was all we were doing, just pretending."

In Dark Back of Time Marias addresses in part, how his previous novel, Our Souls, was received by those of the Oxford community that s
Justin Evans
Jul 21, 2013 Justin Evans rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, essays
Am I burning out on Marias? I hope not; 'The Infatuations' should be in my hands the day it comes out. But I found this much less gripping than his other works, for two connected reasons, that have a lot to do with my own prejudices, but those prejudices might also be your prejudices. So:

i) this book is filled with much clearer and therefore worse statements of writerly existentialism--you know the stuff. Life is meaningless, we tell ourselves stories in order to give life meaning but that never
Carl R.
May 08, 2012 Carl R. rated it it was ok
My friend didn’t recommend this book, exactly, but she did recommend the author, Javier Marias, or at least said she was impressed with him, and this title is what my neighborhood library had on the shelf, so here we are.
Dark Back of Time is a book about writing a book, and the book it’s about writing is Dark Back of Time. Marias here recounts the reaction to his earlier novel All Souls, which is set at Oxford University and which apparently was suspected of being a roman a clef. Assuming that
Aug 24, 2010 Bobby rated it it was ok
Shelves: reviewed
It's been a really long time since I could not get through a book; so long that I don't even remember the last time it happened. Alas, after reading 1/3 of this book, I have to give up. Despite that, I can still appreciate that Marias writes well; hence the two star rating. However, this book is just too dense and frankly I couldn't find myself caring at all about what the author is writing about. Speaking of which, you can get the plot from another review or Amazon, but basically it consists of ...more
Jose Luis
May 31, 2013 Jose Luis rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Qué mal le ha sentado la relectura... Creía recordar que este libro y Todas las almas se complementaban más, que eran casi dos caras de una novela, pero Negra espalda del tiempo va más allá, se expande en un torbellino de digresiones, que, como dice en la última página, no responde a 'ningún plan ni se rige por ninguna brújula, ni forma un sentido, ni construye un argumento o trama, ni obedece a una armonía oculta, ni compone una historia con su principio y su espera y su silencio final'. Es una ...more
Jul 12, 2014 Hans rated it really liked it
Marias calls this a "false-novel." It tells several stories of real people, including himself, and the stories of fictional people, including the narrator of Marias' book All Souls. In a small part, this is a book about what happens when people perceive fiction as reality and when fictions seep into reality. There are some stunning sections that Marias lets loose and you can fall into the language, letting wave after wave wash over you until at last a larger idea is revealed. That is the style t ...more
Almudena Aguirre
Fantástico libro.

Fantástico libro.

Libro maravilloso del que no se puede contar nada porque no sigue los pasos de la narración normal, con una trama. Hay que leerlo y dejarse llevar y vivir todas las aventuras que te envuelven y que hacen de él un libro único.
Joe Milazzo
Jun 01, 2014 Joe Milazzo rated it really liked it
Tone, tone, and more tone. Marías' dickhead Blanchot-isms totally trump Bolaño's sadsack machismo. Meaning: the mix of strutting bluntness and wink-wink subtlety here is less vaunting and so somehow more ambitious.
Arley Chaves
Mar 12, 2016 Arley Chaves rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Un libro sobre los límites difuminados entre la ficción y la realidad. Relatos increíbles que parecen de ficción y personajes retratados en los libros que son ajenos a esta existencia; y el autor escribe, para empezar la obra: "Creo no haber confundido todavía la ficción con la realidad".
the first marias i read at the suggestion of my friend karl, to whom i owe the world for the introduction. ("if you think nabokov is god, then marias is jesus," he said). strange one to begin with as it refers throughout to an earlier novel (all souls) he wrote. but it was his style that really grabbed me. it's as if the plot was simply a vehicle for his meaningful reflections--reflections (as cheesy as it sounds) that seemed to be meant just for me... this was the beginning of a new exciting lo ...more
Jan 10, 2008 Lbarcenas rated it really liked it
que puedo decir del mas grande autor en castellano de estos tiempos. en estas relfexiones se constata la grandeza de un autor que ama la novela como género y la novela como sino.

el tiempo nos muestra su negra espalada a cada instante, dejando y ennegreciendo todo a su paso. pero las letras constittuyen la luminosidad que del andar de la humanidad...

y bueno, gasworth... el reino. jodeee, la corte. que podemos decir de esta abrumante reunion de talento.

finalmente: Wilfrid Ewart; muerto en mi ciud
Oct 23, 2012 Claudio rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Uno dei lavori dell'autore maggiormente ascrivibili al genere del romanzo-saggio, cui Marias è sempre attiguo. Molto interessante la parte metalinguistica su Oxford, 'Tutte le anime' e le differenze tra autore e narratore: lungi dall'essere uno sterile esercizio intellettualistico, riesce a far emergere il bisogno di protagonismo e apparenza insiti in ogni persona, indipendetemente dall'estrazione sociale. Non mancano neanche gli episodi spassosi (la visita ufficiale a Franco). Tuttavia, nel com ...more
Gaztea Ruiz
Oct 07, 2015 Gaztea Ruiz rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Literatura. Ni más, ni menos.
Angel Serrano
Penosa narración de la vida de un académico en Oxford salpicada de disgresiones sin argumento sobre la Historia de España, viajes al Caribe y otras aventuras sin pies ni cabeza. Decepcionante.
Apr 23, 2016 Lisalisa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 1990s, spanish
A very odd book, very well written, no plot as far as I can tell
Christian Enfraze
Marias n' est pas seulement l'écrivain de ce qui aurait pu advenir. C'est aussi et surtout celui qui me donne l'enseignement et la TRACE de ce qui aurait pu advenir. Cela n'a pas été, mais cela fait désormais partie de ma vie, de moi-même, dans le dos noir de mon existence.
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Javier Marías was born in Madrid. His father was the philosopher Julián Marías, who was briefly imprisoned and then banned from teaching for opposing Franco. Parts of his childhood were spent in the United States, where his father taught at various institutions, including Yale University and Wellesley College. His mother died when Javier was 26 years old. He was educated at the Colegio Estudio in ...more
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