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Dark Back of Time

3.84  ·  Rating details ·  534 Ratings  ·  52 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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Jim Fonseca
Oct 06, 2013 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 distinc ...more
Mike Puma
Mar 02, 2011 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 17, 2012 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 "Marvin" Graye
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
Stephen P
Aug 22, 2012 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
Mar 14, 2014 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
M. Sarki
Oct 30, 2013 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
Oct 08, 2013 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
Jun 06, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The beguiling sequel of sorts to All Souls demonstrates the capacity of prose that's sticky, engaging, unpredictable, flowing, insightful, and wholeheartedly written to leap the tall buildings of conventional narrative expectation in a single bound (book). At the end of "All Souls" there's a mention of going back to read the second half of Quixote, and this is sort of like that in a way, although I haven't yet read the second half of Quixote other than the preamble that mentions a false Quixote ...more
Apr 15, 2011 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
Lenore Beadsman64
Aug 20, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
il passato e tutto quel che ne consegue...

delizioso esercizio postmoderno che ha per tema un libro su un altro libro, Marías parte dal suo precedente Tutte le anime per delineare una storia parallela e leggermente sbilenca dei personaggi veri e fantasticati che là erano raffigurati, lo scherzo aleggia in ogni pagina come anche lo stupore per esser riuscito a dare vita sulla carta a personaggi a cui quelli reali, che non sempre erano serviti da vera ispirazione, si sono poi adeguati, la superstiz
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
More than 200 pages in and I can't think of a reason to read another page. Non-story about random events scattered across random dates outside the time-frame of the actual book, and characters who I have zero reason to care about or be interested in, in any way.

A turkey wrapped in a lemon...
Justin Evans
Jul 21, 2013 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
Mar 20, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Kniha-dvojče k titulu Všechny duše - opravdu vřele doporučuji číst obojí vzápětí po sobě nebo mít alespoň předchozí knihu při ruce, protože všechny ty postavy, děje atd., které jsou tady vysvětlovány si člověk prostě nezapamatuje. Já bohužel tuhle možnost neměla (Všechny duše jsem už vrátila do knihovny), takže jsem se občas ztrácela nebo jsem musela opravdu usilovně vzpomínat, kdo či co z původní knihy jsou tady zmiňováni.

Tato kniha se tváří jako komentář ke Všem duším - autor zde líčí reakce n
Mar 09, 2007 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
Feb 14, 2014 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.
May 24, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Rafael Toledo Plata
Después de haberlo terminado no tengo claro si el libro es realidad o ficción. Marías divide con una delgada línea el presente, el pasado y el futuro y los mezcla con gran facilidad, llevando al lector a ser meticuloso con el seguimiento que debe hacerle a la narración para no perder un solo detalle. Excelente exponente del género “Novela en Clave”.
May 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An intriguing meditation on fiction, reality and time. Marías is an excellent writer, reminding me of the darkness and wit of Bolaño at times.
R.K. Cowles
Apr 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
3 3/4 stars
Don Outis
Dec 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
No hay mejor lectura para entender qué es la auto-ficción literaria.
Carl R.
May 08, 2012 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
Jim Leckband
Jan 22, 2016 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
Colin N.
Jul 25, 2011 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
Sep 10, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wonderful elliptical, witty Javier Marias.

A lot of people will hate this novel because there is no plot nor main character etc. But it isn't that kind of a book. The only way I can describe it is that it's a novelistic wander through fact and fiction, a tumbling series of stories within stories all exploring this idea, mixing real people with fictive people, creating scenarios for both so you don't know what's made up and what is memoir recounted; the argument being that fiction occupies a diff
Jul 28, 2010 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
Oct 29, 2009 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
Jan 10, 2008 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
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
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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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