As I say, this is a delightful volume. Marías closes it with a longish piece about his collection of portrait postcards of writers, meditating on what the various images mean to him: The young Gide, he concludes, looks like "a professional duellist"; T.S. Eliot like "a man who has spent decades combing his hair in exactly the same way." But let me finish with Marías's reflections on a photograph of Rilke:(Via Maud)
"Rilke does not have the face one would suppose him to have, so delicate and unbearable was he in his habits and needs as a great poet. . . . His face is frankly dangerous, with those dark circles under deep-set eyes, and the sparse, drooping moustache which gives him a strangely Mongolian appearance; those cold, oblique eyes make him look almost cruel, and only his hands -- clasped as they should be, unlike Conrad's indecisive hands -- and the quality of his clothes -- an excellent tie and excellent cloth -- give him some semblance of repose or somewhat mitigate that cruelty. The truth is that he could be a visionary doctor in his laboratory, awaiting the results of some monstrous and forbidden experiment."
One glance at Rilke's picture and you'll see that Marías's description is exactly right.
08 February 2006
Michael Dirda on Javier Marías' Written Lives: