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Javier Marías's postmodern praxis: Humor and interplay between reality and fiction in his novels and essays

Karen E Berg, University of Massachusetts Amherst


This dissertation analyzes the interplay between reality and fiction in four of Javier Marias's novels, Todas las almas, Mañana en la batalla piensa en mí, Negra espalda del tiempo and Fiebre y lanza, and in selections from his journalistic articles. It focuses on the antirealist elements at work, such as the melding of seriousness and humor, the incongruous mixture of history and fiction, and the unreliability of the intrusive narrator. Chapter I situates Marías in the context of the post-Franco years and chronicles his rejection of the literature of social realism and his incorporation of postmodern tendencies. Chapter II analyzes different types of humor in the aforementioned novels through the application of Bakhtin's theories of the carnivalesque, Victor Shlovosky's theory of estrangement, Geoffrey Harpham's studies on the grotesque, and Marías's own manipulation of history. Humor functions as an expression of play, an instrument of subtle criticism, a decoding challenge, and an artistic artifact. Historical figures subjected to humor include King Juan Carlos and Francisco Franco. Chapter III analyzes the juxtaposition of fact and fiction in Negra espalda del tiempo through the application of theories formulated by Phillipe Lejeune and Brian McHale. I compare Marías's biography of Wilfred Ewart, an ill-fated English writer, with those of Ewart's other biographers and with Ewart's own autobiography. In his reconstruction of Ewart's life, Marías raises questions about authorial reliability and textual stability. Drawing attention to the subjective role of the author, he makes connections between his life and Ewart's, and employs fictive devices to illuminate reality. Chapter IV examines the postmodern characteristics of Marías's journalistic essays. Marías incorporates humoristic techniques and fictive devices to make his readers aware of cultural and political change, but unlike Larra, with the absence of a national mission.

Subject Area

Romance literature|Literature

Recommended Citation

Berg, Karen E, "Javier Marías's postmodern praxis: Humor and interplay between reality and fiction in his novels and essays" (2006). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3216940.