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Isn’t football a funny old game.

Yesterday was a day that started like any other but ended with league leaders Scunthorpe asserting their authority over League Two to have many lower league fanscasting an envious eye in our direction.

While Rochdale and Burton, two promotion candidates themselves, were trying their best to keep hold of star players, the Iron were busy concluding deals to sign two Championship players on significant two-and-a-half year deals. Both new recruits were heavily involved in their respective team’s promotions to the Championship last season.

Now Paddy Madden and David Syers could make their full debuts for Scunny against Mansfield on Saturday in the fourth tier of English football.

Isn’t football a funny old game.

The capture of last season’s League One leading goal-scorer Paddy Madden has been met by something of a sense of disbelief from across the Football League. How could little ‘ol Scunthorpe afford to pay just under £300k to land the Republic of Ireland international and why he would join a League Two side?

In truth, it has come as a bit of surprise to even the most fervent Scunny supporter, we’re not used to this sort of positive activity in the transfer market either. New chairman Peter Swann, who replaced Steve Wharton in the summer, always stated that the plan was to put the side in a position where he could invest for the start of 2014.

It was announced after the club’s recent AGM that he had purchased shares worth £500k. It transpires that these funds are being used to sign players that will not only get us out of the fourth tier but will help also establish ourselves back in League One as the club, in the long-term, eye promotion back to the Championship. Spending a significant chuck of this budget on a proven goal-scorer determines our ambition and Madden even admits he was impressed with what the future holds for the Iron.  Outbidding the likes of Preston, Rotherham and Leyton Orient to recruit the Yeovil Town striker comes as some statement.

Top of the league after a fabulous eight-match unbeaten run under caretaker come permanent manager Russ Wilcox, the Iron are in a perfect position to kick on. And at only 23-year-old, Madden represents something of a quality purchase for a League Two side.

He’s been described as something of a one-season wonder after the striker struggled to produce the same form in the Championship this season. But he scored 23 goals as the Glovers secured promotion in a higher division just last year making it quite the coup for a fourth division outfit. While most neutrals will laud the signing of Madden, those who have seen him play will know that Syers is the more significant signing for Russ Wilcox’s in-form Iron side.

With 5 goals in his 15 games on-loan from Doncaster, the 27-year-old has has been the catalyst for the free-flowing attacking football that we have witnessed of late.  The former Bradford City man is capable of finishing chances, intelligent movement and imaginative through balls, a valuable asset for any team in the lower tier.

Losing him would have been a massive blow, but after Donny secured Richie Wellens on an 18-month deal, Swann swiftly returned to the Keepmoat to seemingly make an offer they couldn’t refuse with his contract set to expire in the summer. And Sheffield United’s Marcus Williams now looks set to become the third signing after an impressive loan spell at Glanford Park.

As such, all three add immensely to the Iron squad which we’ve always realised had potential for something big this season. Syers has been balanced against the robust Sean McAllister; captain Michael Collins; a fit-again Matthew Sparrow; and with highly impressive youngsters Terry Hawkridge and 17-year-old Hakeeb Adelakun to scare the life out of opposition defenders.

In attack we have the league’s leading goal-scorer Sam Winnall. He is ably supported by the evergreen Deon Burton, who at 37 is probably producing the form of his career, and back at Glanford Park, much-experienced Paul Hayes.

Wilcox can also be very satisfied with the centre-back partnership of David Mirfin and Niall Canavan while in goal Sam Slocombe is attracting higher interest with some commanding displays.

All this means that Wilcox has one of most talented squads in League Two at this disposal, with Madden providing the gloss to improve it further. If you were look back six months, the mere thought of Sparrow, Collins, Iwelumo and Dawson all becoming squad players at Glanford Park would seem ridiculous.

However the start of 2014 appears to have ushered in a new era at Glanford Park. No longer will it be little ‘ol Scunthorpe but with a new 12,000 capacity stadium the ‘Iron Arena’ on the horizon and an owner who is clearly willing to back hismanager in the transfer market, perhaps teams should start taking Scunthorpe United seriously.

UTI

Let me know your thoughts on what this means for The Iron on twitter @aidanmccartney

Mongolian languages Family of about eight Altaic languages spoken by five to seven million people in central Eurasia. All Mongolian languages are relatively closely related, those languages whose translate indonesia to english Javier Marias, The Art of Fiction No. 190 A waiter at a restaurant in Madrid gasped when I mentioned that I was in town to interview Javier Mar&iacute,as. &ldquo,You know him?&rdquo, he asked, as if I&rsquo,d named a president or a movie star. &ldquo,Sometimes we see him walking down the street.&rdquo, Although Mar&iacute,as is not yet well known to readers in the United States, in Europe he is a literary and intellectual sensation&mdash,the author of eleven novels, two books of short stories, a collection of biographical essays, and a column on politics, literature, film, sports, and social issues for the Madrid newspaper El Pais &rsquo,s weekly magazine. He is also one of Spain&rsquo,s leading translators from English. His own books have been published in more than thirty languages and have sold over five million copies worldwide, and he is often mentioned in the European press as a contender for the Nobel Prize. Critics and admiring colleagues (J.&thinsp,M. Coetzee, Salman Rushdie, and the late W.&thinsp,G. Sebald) have praised the way he pits Spanish black humor against English grandiloquence to produce novels that are simultaneously fast-paced and meticulous, speculative and clinical, stylish and classical. In person, too, Mar&iacute,as presents a fine balance of opposing qualities&mdash,alternately a grandee and a recluse, gregarious and reticent, punctilious and totally laid-back. Like the ghostly narrators in his novels, he is a little hard to pin down. He tends to perch rather than sit on his couch and to overenunciate when he speaks in English. He habitually drinks Coca-Cola, subsists on a diet of serrano ham and Manchego cheese, and will not wear a tie unless it is pressed upon him. Mar&iacute,as has a blog but has never seen it and refers to it only as &ldquo,the Web that wears my name.&rdquo, It is managed by an assistant, who posts his newspaper columns and writings. He does not own a computer or mobile phone. He rents two nearly identical apartments just off of Madrid&rsquo,s famed Plaza Mayor. In one, the furniture is dark, in the other, the same furniture is white. Not far from the floor-to-ceiling bookshelf that houses his Greek, Latin, and Byzantine books is an entire room of DVDs stocked with Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin movies as well as episodes of Bonanza . Maverick . and Friends . Despite the fact that his living space is cluttered with toy soldiers, literary memorabilia&mdash,Dashiell Hammett and Joseph Conrad letters, a bust of Laurence Sterne, photographs of various writers&mdash,and fan mail, Mar&iacute,as insists that he is orderly. &ldquo,It&rsquo,s just that I have no time to put things in order,&rdquo, he says. Mar&iacute,as is forever redrawing the thin line that separates illusion from reality, and they are central elements of his work. It is not only his narrators who are unreliable, the entire world of his novels is unreliable. His books enact the Nabokovian principle that memory is ultimately false, which gives his stories a sense of timelessness. Mar&iacute,as was born in Madrid in 1951, twelve years after Franco took power throughout Spain. His father, Juli&aacute,n Mar&iacute,as, a renowned philosopher, was imprisoned and later prohibited from teaching in Spain for opposing the Franco regime, and Mar&iacute,as spent brief periods of his childhood in the United States. He completed two novels before the age of twenty-one, both of which were published: Los dominios del lobo (The Dominions of the Wolf, 1971) and Voyage along the Horizon (1973). He studied English at Complutense University in Madrid, and after his graduation did not write another novel for six years, working instead on translations of American and English writers as diverse as Sir Thomas Browne, Sterne, William Faulkner, Wallace Stevens, and John Ashbery. He taught translation theory at the University of Oxford, where his sixth novel, All Souls (1989), is set. In that novel, Mar&iacute,as lampoons life among the Oxford dons and sympathetically portrays the writer John Gawsworth, who inherited the title of king of Redonda, a small island off of Antigua. The publication of All Souls led to Mar&iacute,as being named the new king of Redonda, a title he still holds today. Mar&iacute,as&rsquo,s seventh novel, A Heart So White (1992), won the IMPAC Award, and he has since published four more novels, including Tomorrow in the Battle Think on Me (1994) and Dark Back of Time (1998). This interview took place over six spring evenings in Mar&iacute,as&rsquo,s apartment&mdash,the one with the dark furniture. His father had died a few months earlier, and Mar&iacute,as&rsquo,s eyes were set in deep shadows. &ldquo,I sleep badly,&rdquo, he confessed. He chain-smoked guiltlessly, often ambidextrously, while the nearby fax machine overflowed with proofs of book jackets awaiting his approval and details concerning an award Mar&iacute,as had just given under his publishing imprint, Reino de Redonda. Mar&iacute,as speaks in winding sentences, full of dependent clauses and parenthetical statements, that suggest what it might have been like to talk to Henry James, who, as Mar&iacute,as notes approvingly in his book Written Lives (1992), spoke as digressively and obliquely as he wrote and once referred to a dog as &ldquo,something black, something canine.&rdquo, INTERVIEWER In addition to being a Spanish citizen, you are the king of the island of 
Redonda, a micronation in the West Indies. I believe you are the first monarch The Paris Review has interviewed. How did you come by your crown? JAVIER MAR&Iacute,AS There was a shipping magnate in the nineteenth century by the name of Shiel, who lived in the Caribbean, and he had eight or nine daughters but no son. Finally, he had a male baby, Matthew Phipps Shiel, who became a writer. To celebrate his son&rsquo,s fifteenth birthday in 1880, Shiel claimed ownership of the uninhabited island of Redonda, which is close to Montserrat and not far from Antigua. He organized a coronation with a Methodist minister from Antigua, and M.&thinsp,P. Shiel was crowned king of that island. Recently, I learned that Redonda is the equivalent to Transylvania in Europe, which is appropriate for a literary legend. It&rsquo,s a very rocky place with limited access. It was used as a harbor for smugglers, and there were legends of terrible beasts and horrific events that happened there. Shortly after Shiel&rsquo,s coronation the British decided to annex the island because aluminum phosphate was found. The Shiels disputed the British for years, and finally the colonial office said they were not going to give the island back to anyone, let alone a crazy ship owner and a writer, but they had no objection to Shiel using the title of king of Redonda as long as it was, as they said, void of content. Eventually, Shiel settled in Britain, where a younger writer named John Gawsworth helped him in his old age. When Shiel died in 1947, Gawsworth became his literary executor and heir to his estate. Gawsworth activated an intellectual aristocracy, as it was called, and named dukes and duchesses, including Lawrence Durrell, Henry Miller, and Dylan Thomas. Gawsworth had been a very promising figure, publishing books at nineteen. He fought in India, Algeria, and Egypt during the war. Amazingly, he published small booklets of poetry everywhere, even in Calcutta. I don&rsquo,t know how he managed to do that during the war. He was one of the youngest members of the Royal Society of Literature and was in touch with many of the major literary figures of the time, from Thomas Hardy to T.&thinsp,E. Lawrence. But Gawsworth became a drunkard and was soon penniless. He had a lot of debts with his landlord and bartenders and started to sell titles to these people. He even put an ad in the Times to sell the title of king of Redonda. A lot of people were interested. I reproduced a telegram in one of the books I published under my Reino de Redonda imprint. I have it here. Carl Werner Skogholm of Denmark wrote: Your Royal Highness, King John Gawsworth of Redonda, Regarding your advertisement I beg to send you the following questions which I hope you will kindly answer: 1) What is the King&rsquo,s duties? 2) What is the King&rsquo,s rights? 3) Is the Isle of Redonda a good place to live in? 4) Is it possible for the King to contact Diana Dors? 5) I have two daughters. Is it possible for girls to inherit the throne? It would be wonderful to become a king suddenly. I hope to be able to&mdash,if you are still willing to sell. INTERVIEWER &ldquo,It would be wonderful to become a king suddenly&rdquo,&mdash,that&rsquo,s what happened to you. MAR&Iacute,AS Yes. But for me, except for the fun of the legend, it has not been particularly wonderful. It seems that during the worst years of his life Gawsworth did sell it&mdash,he issued documents to different people&mdash,so there is some controversy regarding the title. Some of the heirs to those bartenders who claim they are inheritors to the throne are very angry with me. One said, It was so difficult to overthrow the Spaniards, and now you&rsquo,re giving it back to them! That makes me laugh. I have never said that I am the king of Redonda or signed anything other than my name, Javier Mar&iacute,as. I have never been monarchic. I am rather a republican. INTERVIEWER But how did you become this reluctant king? MAR&Iacute,AS These &ldquo,pretenders,&rdquo, as they are called, say that I bought the title at an auction, which I did not. In 1997, after I included one of Gawsworth&rsquo,s stories in an anthology and mentioned his story in my novel All Souls . Jon Wynne-Tyson, who had become king after Gawsworth, wrote to me and said he wanted to abdicate because the pretenders had been writing to him for years. He is an extremely nice person, I must say. Since I had an understanding of Redonda and made it more famous than it ever was, he asked who I thought would be a good successor. He mentioned Seamus Heaney because Shiel was of Irish descent, and because he is such a great writer. I said, Yes, I thought it should be a &ldquo,real&rdquo, writer&mdash,the throne should be inherited not by blood but by letters. We had very British conversations with a lot of understatements&mdash, If you are saying what I think you are saying, but I would not dare to think that you are really saying what it seems you say &mdash,until he openly said, I think you would be a good choice. I said that if something this novelistic intrudes in my life and I don&rsquo,t accept it, I should not be considered a novelist. So I accepted. It is only a title. The island was recovered by Antigua, it belongs to Antigua, and I am not going to have dynastic disputes about anything that is more fictional than real. In my opinion, Jon Wynne-Tyson made the mistake of answering to the pretenders, and he was disputing with them all of the time, probably more privately than publicly. I decided never to reply to anyone. And that is what I have done. I have said, tongue in cheek, that this is the only kingly thing to do: not reply at all. What would the king of England or the king of Spain do? They would not reply. INTERVIEWER Given the way you weave fiction and truth in your novels, some people have wondered if the island is completely fabricated. MAR&Iacute,AS But there are maps. The island is there. INTERVIEWER Have you seen it? MAR&Iacute,AS No, not personally. Jon Wynne-Tyson did. But visiting it is not very important in my opinion either. INTERVIEWER You&rsquo,ve continued the tradition of granting titles to writers and artists, such as Pedro Almod&oacute,var (Duke of Tr&eacute,mula), John Ashbery (Duke of Convexo), Francis Ford Coppola (Duke of Megal&oacute,polis), among others. What are their duties? MAR&Iacute,AS There are no duties whatsoever, not even that of loyalty. All of the dukes and duchesses have names&mdash,funny names&mdash,which is a tradition started in the 1930s. Otherwise, I have tried to keep a low profile. INTERVIEWER Each year, you also give an award in the name of the island. MAR&Iacute,AS Yes. The problem is that when I write to the winners, it helps if they know who I am, but if they don&rsquo,t I have to explain the whole legend of Redonda and it sounds crazy. Doesn&rsquo,t it? I have to ask them not to take the whole kingdom thing seriously just so they won&rsquo,t think that I am a madman or something. It&rsquo,s a bit complicated. So far, it&rsquo,s been OK. This year the winner is Ray Bradbury. We have to see if he understands the joke, because if he doesn&rsquo,t I will have to go to Jean-Luc Godard&mdash,who came in second&mdash,and explain the whole thing again, this time in French. Mr. Bradbury will need to decide what title he would like to have as a duke of Redonda. I suggested a few: Duke of Diente de Le&oacute,n&mdash,Dandelion, or Duke of Carnaval Oscuro&mdash,Dark Carnival. But of course he may choose anything. INTERVIEWER In your book of biographical essays, Written Lives . you portray twenty-six writers, including William Faulkner, Yukio Mishima, James Joyce, and Isak Dinesen. Most of the writers you chose had disastrous personal lives. They failed at love and relationships. MAR&Iacute,AS They were rather calamitous, yes. INTERVIEWER Are you a disastrous individual? MAR&Iacute,AS Yes, but not as blatantly as some of them. I have not tried to kill my wife&mdash,I do not have a wife at the moment, nor do I think I will have a wife&mdash,the way Malcolm Lowry did. But I suppose I have been modestly calamitous in my life. INTERVIEWER How so? MAR&Iacute,AS Well, from my parents&rsquo, point of view, I suppose I oscillated too much. I didn&rsquo,t establish myself professionally. For years, it was not clear if I could make a real living. Certainly translating doesn&rsquo,t allow you to make a living. I had periods of great distress and restlessness. I lived in other countries. I did not marry. I had different girlfriends&mdash,some were married, and some wouldn&rsquo,t marry me or maybe I wouldn&rsquo,t marry them, some were foreign and lived somewhere else. There was always some kind of difficulty. I remember my mother, who died twenty-nine years ago, said that of her five sons I was the one who put myself in danger. She worried about me the most. I crossed the street when the light wasn&rsquo,t red&mdash,things like that. It might have been much worse if I had not been successful as a writer. That is something that could very easily have happened. I never forget that. I don&rsquo,t think my books are easy&mdash,they aren&rsquo,t too difficult either&mdash,but if my novels had sold only ten thousand copies, that would not have been strange. There are many writers who sell much less than that. I have been very lucky, and it was gradual. I was not the kind of writer who wrote one book and became an instant success. The Man of Feeling was more successful than all of the previous novels, and All Souls more successful than that, and then A Heart So White was much more successful than all of the others. I have come to have loyal readers, but it might not have been that way at all. INTERVIEWER Another common quality among the writers you profile is that they didn&rsquo,t take themselves too seriously. The notable exceptions are Thomas Mann, Joyce, and Mishima. How do you avoid taking yourself too seriously? MAR&Iacute,AS It&rsquo,s not a matter of avoiding it. Either you have a feeling that you are important and that you are going to be remembered, or you do not. Those three seemed to consider themselves very important and to think very much of their posterity. There is a poem by Stevenson that I translated many years ago in which he calls writing &ldquo,this childish task.&rdquo, In the poem he addresses his ancestors, all of whom built lighthouses. He apologizes for not having followed the tradition and for staying at home and playing with paper like a child. To think of posterity nowadays is ludicrous because things do not last. Books seem to last more than films or records but even they do not last very long. Now more than ever, we depend on the mercy of the living. When writers and filmmakers die there are three or five days during which, with any luck, the newspapers and the TV devote pages and programs. There is a big fuss, but then you have to wait ten years until there is a commemoration. The moment you are not here to defend your work in interviews, you literally do not exist. There is a penalty. Of course, some people are lucky with posterity, or they deserve it. Elvis Presley has been lucky. He is on the minds of many people, including my own, very often. I think Elvis Presley deserves to be remembered very often. But for most, it is not like that. On Faulkner&rsquo,s centenary, I made a small volume, a tribute to him, with a few texts I had written, the poems I had translated, and a text by someone else. The booklet made people from the press take an interest in Faulkner. When they called and asked me about him, I had the feeling that a mediocre writer like myself was doing Faulkner the favor of talking about him. I am not trying to be falsely modest&mdash,you always have your heroes and you never will surpass them, never. So, from my point of view, thanks to a mediocre Spanish writer&mdash,me&mdash,and because of the accidental fact that I was alive and well known, people in Spain read Faulkner. But Faulkner should not need favors from anyone. INTERVIEWER In the first volume of Your Face Tomorrow . which you published in 2002, you tell a version of your own father&rsquo,s story, creating a kind of posterity for him. Why did you decide to publish that book in three separate volumes? MAR&Iacute,AS This book, especially the first volume, Fever and Spear . was partly inspired by my father, whose story of having been betrayed by one of his best friends immediately after the Spanish Civil War is attributed to the narrator&rsquo,s father. I feared that if I went on and on and didn&rsquo,t publish it until it was totally finished&mdash,and I saw very clearly that the book was getting quite long&mdash,it might not be in print in time for him to read it. Old men live with fewer things&mdash,they are thrilled by fewer things&mdash,and I saw that my father was very curious to see how his story was told. I read part of it to him to see if he would object. The only thing he said was that, unlike my narrator, he never revealed the name of the man who reported about him to Franco&rsquo,s police. But I said, I am telling the story now, and he accepted it. He wanted to see how he was portrayed in fiction. His eyesight was too poor to read by himself in his last years, but I read those parts of it to him. He could listen to it. INTERVIEWER Your father was a disciple of the philosopher Jos&eacute, Ortega y Gasset and a well-known public intellectual in Spain until he was driven out by Franco. Did his exile have an effect on you, or were you too young? MAR&Iacute,AS Exile is not the right word. He belonged to the &ldquo,inner exile,&rdquo, those who were against Franco but who stayed in Spain and did what they could. He went to prison for a few months. He might easily have gone before the firing squad, but he escaped death. Like many who were not permitted to practice their professions, he was prevented from teaching and left to live on I don&rsquo,t know what. He was not even allowed to write for the newspapers for a decade. So he went to the States. My very first memories are of New Haven, where we lived for a year. There is an image in Tomorrow in the Battle Think on Me that comes from that time. We stayed in a furnished house that belonged to a professor who was on leave. I slept in a room that belonged to another boy and would belong to that boy again when he returned. A mobile of toy airplanes hung from the ceiling. INTERVIEWER Did you speak English as a child? MAR&Iacute,AS A little. When I was in New Haven&mdash,it must have been 1955 or 1956&mdash,we did not go to school because there was polio and my mother thought it was better if we didn&rsquo,t go. My father and mother taught us at home, but we did not speak English. We had a great time. It was a novelty. There was the snow and there were squirrels. We had a back garden. My father had offers to stay in the States&mdash,he taught at Wellesley, Indiana, UCLA, and Yale, among other places&mdash,but he didn&rsquo,t want to. He said that even if things were horrible in Spain, and horrible for him in particular, he felt that he should not leave the country permanently. He said, If I had stayed in the United States I would have had American sons. I don&rsquo,t mind having American grandchildren but a son is too close. He was also aware that as a writer&mdash,not a literary writer, he wrote philosophical essays, a book on Don Quixote . a memoir&mdash,you must be in touch with your own language. So it was not an exile. He went now and then for three months but then came back. In the sixties, he mainly taught American students here in Spain on their junior year abroad. When I was a boy, I was very much in touch with Americans. I remember when I was eleven I fell in love with a Tulane student who was probably eighteen or nineteen. I liked her very much. Her name was Ieva. I think she was of Lithuanian origin. INTERVIEWER Was it difficult for you to have such a visible public figure for a father? MAR&Iacute,AS Not really. When I started publishing I was &ldquo,rebellious.&rdquo, I felt rather independent. I felt my writing had not much to do with my father&rsquo,s, and I certainly did not want to be&mdash,or take advantage of being&mdash,Juli&aacute,n Mar&iacute,as&rsquo,s son. In fact, I could not have taken advantage, as he loathed nepotism. Other people did make me feel I was a writer&rsquo,s son, and therefore looked upon my books with diffidence, or even worse than that. It is funny: a writer may be an architect&rsquo,s or a shoemaker&rsquo,s son and no one will care about it. But if your father is a writer, even of a very different kind, you are very easily dismissed as something like an intruder. That kind of misgiving was, at times, more difficult than anything else. For years, I was asked, Do you have anything to do with Juli&aacute,n Mar&iacute,as? 
I started replying, Yes, I am his father. INTERVIEWER What did your grandparents do? MAR&Iacute,AS My father&rsquo,s father, Juli&aacute,n as well, had been the director of a bank. He was apparently a very funny and crazy man who laughed a lot. During World War II he put all his money in Deutschmarks, so he went bankrupt. My mother&rsquo,s father, Emilio, was a military doctor. His wife, Lola, was born in Havana, Cuba, and came to Spain in 1898, when she was about seven or eight. She kept her accent. She is portrayed as the narrator&rsquo,s grandmother in A Heart So White . She had eleven children&mdash,two of them died when they were still babies. She could hardly do anything besides raise them, I suppose. INTERVIEWER What was your mother like? MAR&Iacute,AS Whenever I see photographs of her, she always seems a little melancholy. However, she did laugh a lot and had a very strong character. Her opinion was very important to my father. Sure of himself as he was, he never sent an article to the press without first having read it aloud to her. She was indeed very motherly, she was always afraid something might happen to us&mdash,no wonder, as she had lost her first-born when he was only three and a half years old. Maybe her melancholy&mdash,in the eyes mainly&mdash,came from the war, from the fact that her younger brother, at only seventeen, was killed for nothing during it. After my mother died in 1977, my father kept all of her clothes. My brothers and sisters-in-law and I asked him what he wanted us to do with them, and he said, Just leave them. Leave them as they are for the moment. Of course, no one bothered him again about it, and they stayed there for more than twenty-eight years until he died last year. He was not a morbid person&mdash,he just wanted things to be left alone as they were. I don&rsquo,t think I would do that myself, but I understand that. INTERVIEWER Your brothers are writers too, aren&rsquo,t they? MAR&Iacute,AS In a way. My eldest brother, Miguel, is an economist but he has also been a cinema critic for years. He has written three books, including one on Leo McCarey, who directed Going My Way . The Bells of St. Mary&rsquo,s . and An Affair to Remember . My second brother, Fernando&mdash,not to be confused with Fernando Mar&iacute,as the novelist, whom I haven&rsquo,t read&mdash,is an art historian, and yes, he&rsquo,s written quite a few books. He also taught at Harvard for a period. My younger brother, &Aacute,lvaro, is a musician. He plays the flute and the recorder, and he has a few CDs&mdash,baroque music. Now and then he writes music reviews, but no books. Yes, I suppose we all write in a way. That is the immediate family, but there are two filmmakers&mdash,a cousin of mine who died a few years ago and one of my uncles, my mother&rsquo,s brother, who went by the name Jess Franco. He has made hundreds of films&mdash,all kinds, all very bad, from horror films to Fu Manchu films, Dracula films, porno films, or almost-porno films. He worked with actors past their prime, like George Sanders and Jack Palance. In recent years he has become a cult director. A few years ago, I called a bookseller in London to order a few books and I gave the clerk my full name, the name on my credit card, Javier Mar&iacute,as Franco. Officially we have two surnames in Spain. The first one, which is the one that matters, is the father&rsquo,s name, and the one that follows is the mother&rsquo,s name. My mother&rsquo,s name was Franco&mdash,no relation to the dictator. It&rsquo,s not an uncommon name. When I told the clerk my full name, he said, Can you spell it? I said, Yes, like the dictator. And he said, The dictator? He was a young man and didn&rsquo,t know who Franco was. Then he said, Like Jess Franco? I said, Yes, he&rsquo,s my uncle. The clerk was very impressed. INTERVIEWER Who in your family had the most influence on you? MAR&Iacute,AS Maybe my mother, but also Miguel. He was older and we have a confluence of interests. There was also the other brother, who died. I write about him in Dark Back of Time . But my mother read a lot to us and told us stories. I have been told by my father that my mother used to lull us to sleep by reading us The Iliad . I hope that was an exaggeration on his part, because it sounds very pedantic. INTERVIEWER Your mother published a literary anthology of writings about Spain, but she stopped writing to raise you and your brothers. MAR&Iacute,AS I recently discovered a book she translated into Spanish from French when she was in her late twenties&mdash,some letters by Napoleon, with a short and very good prologue by her. She knew people and the world better than my father did, I would say. She was very respectful, even with her children. She could keep a secret. People tended to tell her their stories and problems, she never passed them on, not even to my father. She graduated with a degree in philosophy and letters at a time when not many women went to university. INTERVIEWER In Dark Back of Time there is a line spoken by the narrator&rsquo,s mother. She says to him, &ldquo,I don&rsquo,t understand, but I understand that I don&rsquo,t understand.&rdquo, Did your mother say this? MAR&Iacute,AS Yes, she told me that in a letter. I went to live with a woman in a different city when I was twenty-three, and that woman was married and had a small boy. Divorce did not come to Spain until after Franco&rsquo,s death. My parents were rather open and liberal for the time, but they were both Catholic and they didn&rsquo,t like that sort of thing. My mother worried. Three years later, my relationship with the woman was over, and my mother could not understand how that had happened. She could not accept the fact that it did not last. That was when she said that. INTERVIEWER Is it difficult for you to look back on your early work? MAR&Iacute,AS Very difficult. Sometimes I have the feeling that I have started writing three different times. My first two books are much different from what came after. The good thing about them is that I&rsquo,m not ashamed of them. They don&rsquo,t make me blush. I was lucky enough to see them published, but that is unusual. These novels are still in print thanks to a few things: they are not autobiographical, they are not pretentious, they don&rsquo,t want to do something unheard of or new, and it seems that they are readable and fun. They are imitations, parodies. When you are very young, you are really writing exercises. The first novel, Los dominios del lobo . parodies American cinema. It takes place in the United States. The first one is fun. The second, Voyage along the Horizon . is more literary. INTERVIEWER When you were younger, you were criticized for not being Spanish enough. What was the substance of that complaint? MAR&Iacute,AS In order to diminish what I did, they said that many of my novels do not take place in Spain. But most of my characters are Spanish and my country is present in my novels, even though they are not typically Spanish novels. I didn&rsquo,t write the kind of folklore, for instance, that some people have profited from. People expect Spanish literature, theater, films, and painting to be folkloric. But the Spain I&rsquo,ve known is a rather normal country, even during the dictatorship, in the sense that our cities are not very different from other European cities. There are cultivated people in Spain who have not been portrayed in the Spanish novel. There has been a tendency toward rural passions and crimes and women with knives in their garters. My books did not match the clich&eacute,. For years, they said that I wrote as if it were a translation, which for me was praise. You know how important I think translation is. After a time, when they couldn&rsquo,t say that anymore, they said my books were too cold, too brainy. Then when I published a novel that was, I guess, not so cold, when the cold wore off, they said that I wrote for women. This was a bad thing. Like most writers, I have a lot of women readers. Women read more, and I find that women are better readers precisely because they read more. INTERVIEWER Do you find it easy to write about women? MAR&Iacute,AS No, it is not very easy for me. I would say that my female characters are a bit in the shade. I dare not portray them in full. Often I am amazed, and not necessarily in a positive way, at a woman who decides to write a whole novel from the male point of view. The idea of a male writing a female narrator and a female writing a male seems absurd. I know many people have done it well&mdash,Flaubert did it very well. I find books like that a little unbelievable. Only once have I written from a female perspective and that was in a short story. I would not be able to sustain it for a whole novel. My latest novels have been in the first person, and the female characters are always seen through the eyes of a male. That&rsquo,s the way it is and that&rsquo,s the way it should be in a novel for the sake of plausibility: for the story and the point of view. There is something called subjectivity. I see the world from my manhood, and that&rsquo,s the way I see women in my novels. INTERVIEWER You have a reputation for being a ladies&rsquo, man&mdash, MAR&Iacute,AS That&rsquo,s a falsehood. INTERVIEWER People tend to equate you with your narrators, and your narrators often think of themselves as great seducers. MAR&Iacute,AS That&rsquo,s not true. Because I taught in Oxford for a number of years like the narrator of All Souls . there has been a tendency on the part of my readers to identify my narrators with myself, more than usual. Critics sometimes mention the narrator&rsquo,s beautiful wife, Luisa . I have never said that any of the women in my books are beautiful. I am very careful not to say openly that she was marvelous or she was splendid . In All Souls . there is a moment when the narrator talks about the woman who would become his lover, Clare Bayes, about her d&eacute,colletage, and he says he won&rsquo,t say any more about her looks because given the fact that she becomes his lover it would seem presumptuous to say, You see, I did conquer that beauty. I would dislike it very much if my narrators were like that. Who doesn&rsquo,t have an affair now and then? That doesn&rsquo,t mean that he is a ladies&rsquo, man. My narrators don&rsquo,t boast. INTERVIEWER Do you think of your narr

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Written by Matt Blanchard

Part of the team since 2007, before becoming editor in 2013. Undertaken the role of match summariser during Scunthorpe United live match commentaries for BBC Radio Humberside. Seasonal contributor to football titles FourFourTwo and When Saturday Comes and a finalist at the Football Blogging Awards in 2014.

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