More on the Anagrama Panel: Bolano’s Fav’s and Vila-Matas Sauced

Garth reports some interesting findings at the Anagrama panel at PEN. First he discusses Bolano's favorite authors:

The first to speak was Daniel Sada, who, according to Herralde, was on Roberto Bolaño's short-list of favorite writers, which fluctuated according to who he was friends with at any given time. The other candidates? Rodrigo Fresán, Alan Pauls, Rodrigo Rey Rosa, Javier Marías, and the man seated to Sada's right, Enrique Vila-Matas. Sada spoke about the 19th-Century tradition that shaped him, and its two great problems: managing character and managing time. He quoted Zola: "a novel with less than 25 characters is not worth reading." Sada's ambition as a young man was to write a 19th-Century novel that would also be a piece of poetry. "I understand now that this is an idiotic idea," he said. Still, his fiction is apparently difficult to translate because of his careful attention to the rhythms of his sentences. (All of this made me hungry to read his novel, Almost Never, which will be published in English next year by Graywolf.)

Actually, there are a few more authors on that list. Horacio Castellanos Moya is one of them, and you can find out the rest in this footnote in our interview with him.

Garth also delivers what I believe may be the first English-language media description of Spanish writer Enrique Vila-Matas:

The final panelist was Vila-Matas, whom I can only describe as looking like an Iberian Christopher Hitchens. Open-collared and looking pleasantly sauced at 7 p.m., he delivered a fluid series of anecdotes and aphorisms, most of them offering a rascally picture of his dealings with [Anagrama founder] Herralde. My favorite had to do with bumping into Herralde in a discotheque while "in a euphoric state" and lying about having completed a novel. In the end, though, Vila-Matas turned earnest. "Without the trust [of Herralde and Anagrama] it's not clear I would still be a writer."

Gotta say, after reading several of his books and viewing numerous photos of him, I never once imagined Vila-Matas as an "Iberian Christopher Hitchens." Although the rest of Garth's description rings true.

Here's video of the man himself. You make the call:

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  2. Vila-Matas Website Javier Moreno of Hermano Cerdo points out to me that Enrique Vila-Matas now has a website, all in Spanish, obviously. There’s some useful stuff there,...
  3. El Tercer Reich to Be Published by Anagrama Well, the Bolano posthumous publication brigade is getting started. Via Moleskine Literario I see that El Pais is reporting that Spanish powerhouse publisher Anagrama will...
  4. Vila-Matas Calls for Readers of Talent Andrew Seal points to (and partially translates) Enrique Vila-Matas's latest column in El Pais, where he argues that after our illusory economy has finished going...
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I hope the Hitch allusion is taken as playfully as it was meant. As has been noted elsewhere, these two writers have little in common beyond a certain affinity of appearances (if you’re willing to take a little imaginative license, and update Hitchens’ hairline.) Check it out:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/penamericancenter/3492213173/
http://www.davebarry.com/president/dave2k/graphx/hitch.jpg
Viva Vila-Matas!

Hey Garth,
Absolutely, although I do find it easy to picture Vila-Matas pleasantly buzzed while discoursing. The difference–and it’s a key one–is that the Hitch would be buzzed on whiskey, whereas Vila-Matas would have just drank a couple of glasses of malbec.

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