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24 April 1997
Tomorrow in the Battle Think on Me 
by Javier Marías, translated by Margaret Jull Costa.
Harvill, 313 pp., £8.99, October 1996, 1 86046 199 9
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The Club Dumas 
by Arturo Pérez-Reverte, translated by Sonia Soto.
Harcourt Brace, 368 pp., $23, February 1997, 0 15 100182 0
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... author of eight novels, the last three of which are available in English (from Harvill) as All Souls, A Heart So White and Tomorrow in the Battle Think on Me. All three are admirably translated by MargaretJullCosta, who not only catches the meanings of words with grace and precision, but gets rhythms of thought, and even better, rhythms of afterthought to carry over into English. Marías writes the ...

Conversations with Myself

Michael Wood: Fernando Pessoa

19 July 2018
The Book of Disquiet 
by Fernando Pessoa, translated by Margaret Jull Costa.
Serpent’s Tail, 413 pp., £9.99, August 2018, 978 1 78125 864 4
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... he likes to celebrate; only claiming that small worlds help us to imagine large spaces. This first version of The Book of Disquiet was translated into English four times in one year: in 1991, by MargaretJullCosta, Alfred MacAdam, Ian Watson and Richard Zenith. The last of these texts started out as The Book of Disquietude, but the longer word was soon dropped. As JullCosta says, desassossego can ...

Zip the Lips

Lorna Scott Fox: A novel plea for silence

2 June 2005
Your Face Tomorrow 1: Fever and Spear 
by Javier Marías, translated by Margaret Jull Costa.
Chatto, 376 pp., £17.99, May 2005, 9780701176754
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The Man of Feeling 
by Javier Marías, translated by Margaret Jull Costa.
Vintage, 135 pp., £7.99, February 2005, 0 09 945367 3
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... When I said I was moving from northern Spain to Seville, the same warning came from every northerner I knew: those Andalusians always act so friendly, but watch out, you can’t trust them. I found this puzzling, for the only thing I’d want to trust them to be was friendly, however superficially; I didn’t expect them to save my life, or even to keep my non-existent secrets. In Seville too I was ...

Marvellous Money

Michael Wood: Eça de Queirós

3 January 2008
The Maias: Episodes from Romantic Life 
by José Maria Eça de Queirós, translated by Margaret Jull Costa.
Dedalus, 714 pp., £15, March 2007, 978 1 903517 53 6
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... of this theory of readable surfaces because I was trying to understand my pleasure in the beautifully crafted descriptions in Eça de Queirós’s masterly novel The Maias, extremely well rendered in MargaretJullCosta’s new translation. The novel is set in Lisbon in the 1870s: 1875 to 1878, to be precise, with a couple of flashbacks to establish the family history, and an epilogue placed in 1887, the ...

Who will punish the lord?

Robert Alter: Saramago’s Cain

6 October 2011
by José Saramago, translated by Margaret Jull Costa.
Harvill Secker, 150 pp., £12.99, July 2011, 978 1 84655 446 9
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... of the Siege of Lisbon, perhaps his best novel. Cain’s most engaging moments are in Saramago’s whimsical recasting of the biblical materials. The first sentence of the book, an illustration of MargaretJullCosta’s deft translation, strikes this note: When the lord, also known as god, realised that adam and eve, although perfect in every outward aspect, could not utter a word or make even the ...

No Longer Here

William Deresiewicz: Julio Llamazares

25 September 2003
The Yellow Rain 
by Julio Llamazares, translated by Margaret Jull Costa.
Harvill, 130 pp., £10.99, March 2003, 9781860469541
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... Julio Llamazares’s novel The Yellow Rain, much praised and much bought when it was published in Spain 15 years ago, tells the story of Ainielle, a small, remote Pyrenean village in the final stages of its disappearance. One by one, the last families load what they can onto mule or mare and set off down the mountains in the hope of finding a less hardscrabble life somewhere else, abandoning their ...

At the Video Store

Daniel Soar: Saramago

2 December 2004
The Double 
by José Saramago, translated by Margaret Jull Costa.
Harvill, 292 pp., £15.99, August 2004, 1 84343 099 1
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... and which embarrasses him when he has to reveal it to the video store owner who is about to rent him the film in which his double will first appear. The (old-fashioned) name Tertuliano is, in MargaretJullCosta’s translation, ‘most unusual’. In Portuguese it’s ‘nada comum’, which means the same thing, but has the advantage of chiming with everything in the book that is ‘common ...

Lingering and Loitering

Benjamin Kunkel: Javier Marías

3 December 2009
Your Face Tomorrow 3: Poison, Shadow and Farewell 
by Javier Marías, translated by Margaret Jull Costa.
Chatto, 545 pp., £18.99, November 2009, 978 0 7011 8342 4
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... In one of literary history’s great instances of the pot calling the kettle black, Henry James complained of ‘the absence of spontaneity, the excess of reflection’ in George Eliot’s work. To other readers, of course, the proportion that Eliot – or even late James – sets up between narrative spontaneity (or action and event), on the one hand, and reflection or disquisition, on the other ...

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