Spanish essayist and philosopher Julian Marias came of intellectual age in Madrid in a cultural and literary milieu dominated by the philosophical menu and style of José Ortega y Gasset and his school and modulated by the literary canon of the Generation of 1898. He inherited from the former the theoretical premise that the efficacy of truth remains inseparable from aesthetic form and appeal; in the latter he found transtheoretical confirmation of this doctrine, especially in such writers as the novelist and essayist Azorin and the poet Antonio Machado.
Marías describes an essential dimension of this literary doctrine as “page quality,” which he understands not only as sustained stylistic creativity at the most localized and mundane level of discourse, but also as a strict aversion to any form of literary cliché or consensus. At its best this brave reliance on personal resources and the unexploited beauty of ordinary language rises to classic stylistic levels, as in the case of Ortega, Azorin, and Marías himself. Yet even in the flawed prose of the novelist Pío Baroja, Marias finds in the “incorruptible depths” of his personality a radical sincerity which he believes to be the true assurance of abiding literary relevance.
Within this same stylistic and doctrinal canon Marías himself writes with enormous power and apparent ease. Already an established philosophical author by 1951 when a relaxation of governmental censorship allowed him to begin a collateral career as a journalistic essayist, Marías soon gained a large and loyal following in such publications as ABC, El País (The country), Blanco y Negro (White and black), and, subsequently, Buenos Aires’ La Nación. Although the majority of his journalistic articles remain uncollected, scores of his longer philosophical essays appear in such works as Aquí y ahora (1954; Here and now), Ensayos de convivenda (1955; Essays of coexistence), El ofido del pensamiento (1958; Essays of thought), El tiempo que ni vuelve ni tropieza (1964; Time which neither returns nor stumbles), Al margen de estos clásicos (1966; In the margin of these classics), Nuevos ensayos de filosofia (1968; New philosophical essays), and Hispanoamérica (1984). The excellence of his writing has been abundantly recognized with the award of both Spanish and international prizes.
Following the stylistic traditions of the master Spanish essayists, particularly Ortega, whose craft was shaped in the journalistic mold, Marías goes immediately to the heart of a problem and once centered on his theme pursues it with remarkable linguistic economy and grace, successfully blending modern popular themes and metaphors with vast classical erudition. Refreshingly free of postmodernist cant and exhibitionist pedantry, his style has been described by Lafuente Ferrari as “diamond-like” in its clarity and flawless brilliance.
Marías’ essay style and doctrine converge in what he calls “narrative reason,” that is, the notion that insofar as authentic ideas arise from and attach to human life, they also partake of its dynamic movement and internal illumination. Thus a narrative, plot-like quality characterizes his writings. Thematic movement, descriptive imagery, conceptual development, and ultimate human consequence pass before the reader in taut, dialectical sequence. Marías makes no concessions to extraneous abstractions and pomposities, much less to professional jargon and insider language, although he peppers his writings with fascinating aperçus. Deeply convinced of the seriousness of his topic and his methods, he does not slip into the defensive and self-indulgent introspection common to more timid essayists. His stylistic pace is too swift for him to second-guess himself. And yet for all this seriousness of purpose its register is broad enough to accommodate moments of humor, indignation, compassion, and, not infrequently, a fine sense of irony.
His essays tend to evoke either enthusiasm or hostility, but almost never, it seems, indifference.
Although the essays of Marías presuppose the seamlessly articulated metaphysical foundation of human life as the “radical reality,” each stands free and comprehensible on its own merits. Indispensable references to the underlying doctrinal base are couched in the language of common sense and contemporary experience. The result is a clear view into the depths of modern philosophical discourse and a cordial invitation to the general reader to join in the intellectual enterprise. For unlike those writers who claim universality but speak to no one in particular, Marías remains obedient to an abiding Spanish instinct by addressing real people in actual time and circumstances.
Consequently few things that matter to this age have escaped his notice. With vigorous, crystalline language he has treated human problems and potentialities under such general rubrics as philosophy, ethics, sociology, historiography, technology, literary criticism, art, cinema, politics, and religion.
Perhaps Salvador de Madariaga best sums up Marías’ stylistic qualities, which, as Buffon insisted, are also the man: “In him thought comes to light with such graceful ease that it seems that he is saying nothing new, yet everything is new and felicitous.” As heir and defender of the Generation of 1898 and its successors, Marías takes his place in an illustrious line of philosophers, novelists, poets, and essayists who through their profound and eloquent commentary on the human condition have transformed the Spanish
language into a polished instrument of contemporary discourse.
Julián Marías Aguilera. Born 17 June 1914 in Valladolid. Studied philosophy under Ortega y Gasset at the University of Madrid, degree in philosophy, 1936, Ph.D., 1951.
Served in the Republican forces during the Spanish Civil War. Professor of philosophy, Aula Nueva, Madrid, 1940–48. Married Dolores Franco, 1941 (died, 1977): five sons (one died). Founder, with Ortega y Gasset, Instituto de Humanidades (Institute of the humanities), Madrid, 1948. Traveled widely, from 1951, in Europe and to the United States, Canada, and South America. Lectured in Spain and Latin America, and taught or lectured at various universities in the U.S.Director, Seminario de Estudios de Humanidades (Seminary for studies in the humanities), Madrid, 1960–70. Founder, Cuenta y Razón (Account and reason), magazine of the Fundación de Estudios Sociólogicos (Foundation for sociological studies). Elected to the Royal Spanish Academy, 1964. Member of Spanish Parliament, 1977–78. Professor of Spanish philosophy, University of Distance Learning, 1980–84.
Awards: several, including John F.Kennedy Prize, 1964; Juan Palomo Prize, 1971; Gulbenkian Essay Award, 1972;
Ramón Godó Lallana Prize, 1975–76; León Felipe Prize, 1979; Grand Cross (Argentina);
honorary degrees from four universities; officer, Legion of Honor (France).
Essays and Related Prose
Miguel de Unamuno, 1943; as Miguel de Unamuno, translated by Frances M.López- Morillas, 1966
San Anselmo y el insensato y otros estudios de filosofía, 1944
El método histórico de las generaciones, 1949; as Generations: A Historical Method, translated by Harold C.Raley, 1970
Aquí y ahora, 1954
Ensayos de teoría, 1954
Biografia de la filosofia, 1954; as A Biography of Philosophy, translated by Harold C.Raley, 1984
Ensayos de convivencia, 1955
La imagen de la vida humana, 1955; enlarged edition, 1971
Los Estados Unidos en escorzo, 1956; selections as Modos de vivir: Un observador espanol en los Estados Unidos, edited by Edward R.Mulvihill and Roberto G.Sanchez, 1964; in America in tbe Fifties and Sixties: Julidn Marías on the United States, edited by Michael Aaron Rockland, translated by Blanche De Puy and Harold C.Raley, 1972
El intelectual y su mundo, 1956
La estructura social: Teoria y metodo, 1958; as The Structure of Society, translated by Harold C.Raley, 1987
El oficio del pensamiento, 1958
El tiempo que ni vuelve ni tropieza, 1964
Al margen de estos cldsicos, 1966
Consideracion de Cataluña (articles), 1966
Nuevos ensayos de filosofía, 1968
Análisis de los Estados Unidos, 1968; in America in the Fifties and Sixties: Julidn Marías on the United States, edited by Michael Aaron Rockland, translated by Blanche De Puy and Harold C. Raley, 1972
Antropologta metafísica: La estructura empírica de la vida humana, 1970; as
Metaphysical Anthropology: The Empirical Structure of Human Life, translated by Frances M.López-Morillas, 1971
Visto y no visto: Crónicas de cine (cinema reviews), 2 vols., 1970
Philosophy as Dramatic Theory, translated by James Parsons, 1971
Sobre Hispanoamerica, 1973; revised edition, as Hispanoamérica, 1984
Literatura y generaciones, 1975
Cervantes clave española, 1990
Other writings: many works on philosophy.
Collected works edition: Obras completas, 10 vols., 1958–82 (incomplete).
Abellán, José Luis, “De cultura y filosofía española (II): Julián Marías y Manuel Granell,” Insula 287 (1970):10
Carpintero Capell, Heliodoro, Cinco aventuras españolas: Aranguren, Ayala, Ferrater, Laín, Marías, Madrid: Revista de Occidente, 1968
Donoso, Antón, Julián Marías, Boston: Twayne, 1982
Guy, Alain, “Julián Marías,” in his Les Philosophes espagnols d’hier et d’aujourd’hui:
Écpoques et auteurs, Toulouse: Privat, 1956: 330–39
Henares Martínez, Domingo, Hombre y sociedad en Julián Marías, Albacete: Diputación de Albacete, 1991
Homenaje a Julián Marías, Madrid: Espasa-Calpe, 1984
Raley, Harold, Responsible Vision: The Philosophy of Julián Marías, Clear Creek, Indiana: Arnerican Hispanist, 1980
Sarmiento, Edward, “The Mind of Julián Marías,” Tablet 197 (30 June 1951):515–17
Soler Planas, Juan, El pensamiento de Julián Marías, Madrid: Revista de Occidente, 1973
Vilar, Sergio, “Julián Marías and the Intelligentsia in Spain,” Books Abroad 37 (1963):252–60
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