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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

While the Women are Sleeping

Javier Marías

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To purchase While the Women are Sleeping

Title: While the Women are Sleeping
Author: Javier Marías
Genre: Stories
Written: 1990 (Eng. 2010)
Length: 131 pages
Original in: Spanish
Availability: While the Women are Sleeping - US
Mientras ellas duermen - US
While the Women are Sleeping - UK
While the Women are Sleeping - Canada
While the Women are Sleepin - India
Während die Frauen schlafen - Deutschland
Mientras ellas duermen - España
  • Spanish title: Mientras ellas duermen
  • Note that several pieces from the Spanish original are not included in this volume
  • Translated by Margaret Jull Costa

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Our Assessment:

B : a few nice pieces, but a minor collection compared to the novels

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The Independent . 3/12/2010 Richard Gwyn
The NY Times Book Rev. . 19/12/2010 Jascha Hoffman
The Observer B- 11/12/2010 Julius Purcell
The Spectator . 18/12/2010 Margaret Drabble
Die Zeit . 30/3/2000 Katharina Döbler

  From the Reviews:
  • "These stories provide a fascinating insight into the development of a great writer; particularly his experimentation with voice and subject matter. But they are not comparable with the achievement of the novels." - Richard Gwyn, The Independent

  • "Few of these tales rise to the level of Marías’s longer works (most of them also adeptly translated by Costa), which build up suspense by punctuating long passages of erudition with moments of brutal violence. But some are quite good on their own terms." - Jascha Hoffman, The New York Times Book Review

  • "In general, though, these short stories have not aged well. (...) While his later, mature novels are unquestionably haunting (to use the English word he is so fascinated by), the ghosts of this collection seem rather more like empty shadows." - Julius Purcell, The Observer

  • "Marias is a literary trickster (.....) We are in the realm of reflecting mirrors and false identities." - Margaret Drabble, The Spectator

  • "Interessant für heutige Leser ist an diesem Buch hauptsächlich eines: zu beobachten, wie der Autor die mit morbider Jenseitigkeit und moralischer Spannung aufgeladenen Topoi viktorianischer Literatur zu mehr oder weniger eleganten Beweisführungen für die Überflüssigkeit von Moralität in der Literatur benutzt." - Katharina Döbler, Die Zeit

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       While the Women are Sleeping collects ten stories by Javier Marías, including 'The Life and Death of Marcelino Iturriaga' which, he explains in a brief Author's Note: "was, I believe, my first published piece", written in 1965 and published in 1968. This collection as a whole was first published in Spanish (in a slightly more extensive edition -- several pieces didn't make it into English here) in 1990, and thus represents a fairly early selection of Marías' work.
       The creepy title-story, one of the latest pieces in the collection, is also among the strongest, the narrator describing a fellow vacationer who obsessively films his much younger girlfriend. The two enter into a conversation about the man's obsession, and it turns out to be of an even greater and more disturbing order than the narrator first imagined; Marías twists his tale agreeably effectively.
       Several of Marías' own familiar obsessions also crop up, from his love of all things English to people confronted by their doubles. The variations on characters meeting another version of themselves -- to catastrophic effect -- are quite amusing (but, of course, it's a theme that's also rather quickly played out).
       The self-styled (but disputed) 'King of Redonda', Marías' also plays amusing tribute to one of his predecessors on the throne, John Gawsworth, in 'An Epigram of Fealty'.
       These aren't all trifles, but Marías' strengths -- both in plotting and playfulness -- do better with more space in which to unfold, and the short story doesn't appear to be his natural métier. These are all well and good -- with the occasional clunkiness -- but strictly minor leagues for Marías. The stories are of some interest, and it's a decent collection to dip into, but most readers can safely stick to the novels.

- M.A.Orthofer, 1 May 2013

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While the Women are Sleeping: Reviews: Javier Marías: Other books by Javier Marías under review: Books about Javier Marías under review: Other books of interest under review:
  • See Index of Spanish literature under review

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About the Author:

       Spanish author Javier Marías lived 1951 to 2022.

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© 2013-2023 the complete review

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