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Dark Back in Time

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I picked up Javier Marias's "false novel" A Dark Back in Time on the basis of my enjoyment of two earlier novels - All Souls (1992) and A Heart so White (1995). My memory of these two novels was sufficiently vague for me not to be warned off by a rather enigmatic back-cover description. Of All Souls, I could only recall a university novel in the loosest terms; A Heart so White had a more conventional plot and I enjoyed the bookish narrator, with his marital problems and his overshadowing father. A Dark Back in Time promises to play with narrative structures - the back cover refers to "a man named Javier Marias" and one gets the idea that the writer will be somehow writer, narrator and character in the text. Indeed, this is the case. Fundamentally, Dark Back explores the historical and personal material that inspired All Souls and in that sense deliberately inhabits that space that writers normally take trouble to avoid - that is, the 'shadowland' where…