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The supernaturally talented Javier Marías

The Borgesian tradition of slippery, riddling short fiction is developed in this career-spanning collection from Javier Marías, Spain's greatest living writer.

While the Women are Sleeping

Javier Marias

Chatto & Windus

Dh 65

The Borgesian tradition of slippery, riddling short fiction is developed in this career-spanning collection from Javier Marías, Spain's greatest living writer.

Everything here is a ghost tale of one sort or another. Some literally involve ghosts, as in the eternally rewritten resignation letter of Señor Santiesteban in the story of that name. Others explore doppelgangers or curses, and most are steeped in the British tradition of supernatural fiction (an Anglophile, Marias namedrops Conan Doyle, and briefly adopts an English nom de plume; his novel All Souls revolved around the Welsh horror author Arthur Machen).

In each piece, however, the conventions of the MR James ghost story are subverted by a punchline as bewildering as a Zen parable. Thus the winningly abrupt ending to a story about a man who was prophesied to die but in the event was never born, making him doubly dead: "He … is the only person who will have neither homeland nor grave. That person is Isaac Custardoy. I, on the other hand, am not."

Published: December 3, 2010 04:00 AM