Javier Marías, who has died aged 70, was Spain’s “greatest contemporary literary figure”, says Charlie Connelly in The New European. His 16 novels, known for their “long, ruminative sentences”, sold almost nine million copies worldwide and were translated into 46 languages. He was as curious a character as he was a novelist. Marías had two flats in Madrid: “one furnished entirely in black, the other in white”. He had no internet connection and wrote everything on an ancient and much-loved Olympia Carrera de Luxe typewriter. If it ever gave up the ghost, he said, he would have to give up writing.
Marías communicated “almost exclusively by fax”, only eventually agreeing to use a smartphone so he could file his newspaper column by WhatsApp – “sending the editor photographs of his typewritten pages”. He was also a “ferocious” smoker, known to turn down international awards if the trip to receive them involved too much time on a plane or in buildings where he couldn’t have a puff. His diet was simple: “cigarettes, Coca-Cola, cigarettes, serrano ham, Manchego cheese and cigarettes”.