my review of Never Any End to Paris by Enrique Vila-Matas. (I've also just completed an interview with Vila-Matas himself, to be published by The Paris Review later this year.) If somehow you missed the first two Vila-Matas translations published by New Directions in 2007, this is your chance to make it up." />

The End of Oulipo?

The End of Oulipo? My book (co-authored with Lauren Elkin), published by Zero Books. Available everywhere. Order it from Amazon, or find it in bookstores nationwide. The End of Oulipo

Lady Chatterley’s Brother

Lady Chatterley's Brother. The first ebook in the new TQC Long Essays series, Lady Chatterley's Brothercalled “an exciting new project” by Chad Post of Open Letter and Three Percent. Why can't Nicholson Baker write about sex? And why can Javier Marias? We investigate why porn is a dead end, and why seduction paves the way for the sex writing of the future. Read an excerpt.

Available now from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and direct from this site:


Translate This Book!

Ever wonder what English is missing? Called "a fascinating Life Perecread" by The New Yorker, Translate This Book! brings together over 40 of the top translators, publishers, and authors to tell us what books need to be published in English. Get it on Kindle.

For low prices on Las Vegas shows visit LasVegas.ShowTickets.com

You Say

Group Reads

The Tunnel

Fall Read: The Tunnel by William H. Gass

A group read of the book that either "engenders awe and despair" or "[goads] the reader with obscenity and bigotry," or both. Info here. Buy the book here and support this site.

Naked Singularity

Summer Read: A Naked Singularity by Sergio De La Pava

Fans of Gaddis, Pynchon, DeLillo: A group read of the book that went from Xlibris to the University of Chicago Press. Info here. Buy the book here and support this site.

Life Perec

Life A User's Manual by Georges Perec

Starting March 2011, read the greatest novel from an experimental master. Info here. Buy the book here and support this site.

Last Samurai

Fall Read: The Last Samurai by Helen DeWitt

A group read of one of the '00s most-lauded postmodern novels. Info here. Buy the book here and support this site.

Tale of Genji

The Summer of Genji

Two great online lit magazines team up to read a mammoth court drama, the world's first novel.

Your Face Tomorrow

Your Face This Spring

A 3-month read of Javier Marias' mammoth book Your Face Tomorrow

Shop though these links = Support this site


Ten Memorable Quotes from William Gaddis’ Letters

New Books
Here are ten of my favorite moments from these hugely interesting letters.


Interviews from Conversational Reading

New Books
See this page for interviews with leading authors, translators, publishers, and more.


  • Nostalgia June 15, 2014
    Few habits are as prone to affliction, or as vulnerable to an ordeal, as the bent of a peddler’s consciousness. Placeless, the peddler completes an untold number of transactions; there are ideas to conduct (through language, which can transact a mind) and feelings to certify (through tasks, repeated interminably). […]
  • Why Literary Periods Mattered by Ted Underwood June 15, 2014
    There are some writers who are, and likely always will be, inextricably linked to the “period” with which their work is associated, and in many cases helped to define. Surely Wordsworth and Keats will always be “Romantic” poets, while Faulkner and Woolf will remain modernists, as the term “modern” has been fully appropriated to describe the historical era be […]
  • Trans-Atlantyk by Witold Gombrowicz June 15, 2014
    August 1939. You sail to Buenos Aires on the Chombry as a cultural ambassador of Poland. Why say no to a little holiday on the government’s tab? Soon after arriving you sense that something isn’t right. You emerge from a welcome reception and your ears are “filled with newspaper cries: ‘Polonia, Polonia,’ most irksome indeed.” Before you’ve even had a chance […]
  • Accepting the Disaster by Joshua Mehigan June 15, 2014
    The first collections of most young poets, even the better ones, carry with them a hint of bravado. Flush with recognition, vindicated by the encouraging attentions of at least one editor and three blurbists, the poet strikes a triumphant pose and high-fives the Muse: “We did it, baby.” When Joshua Mehigan published his impressive first collection, The Optim […]
  • The Histories of Herodotus, translated by Tom Holland June 15, 2014
    Two of the greatest of Tom Holland's predecessors in translating Herodotus are Victorian scholar George Rawlinson and Aubrey de Selincourt; the former translated Herodotus in 1860, making an enormous hit (despite the fact that its detractors often referred to it as “dull and prolix"), while the latter's 1954 Herodotus was another enormous hit, […]
  • Bullfight by Yasushi Inoue June 15, 2014
    The premise of Yasushi Inoue's debut novella Bullfight, celebrated in Japan as a classic of postwar literature, is unassuming enough: an evening newspaper sponsors a tournament of the regional sport of bull-sumo. As practical and financial issues arise, the paper's young editor-in-chief, Tsugami, soon realizes he has taken on more than he can handl […]
  • Sworn Virgin by Elvira Dones June 15, 2014
    Sworn Virgin was made to be translated. Elvira Dones wrote this book not in her native language of Albanian but in Italian—a necessarily fraught and complicated decision. In an Italian-language interview with Pierre Lepori, Dones speaks about her choice of language: “Sworn Virgin was born in Italian . . . I’ve lived using Italian for nineteen years, it has s […]
  • On the Letters of David Markson June 15, 2014
    Knowing these narrators and how their lives paralleled David’s own, it’s difficult to deny his being a recluse. I certainly held that image of him, and nursed it, secretly cherishing it because it meant I was one of the few people with whom he corresponded, and with whom he would occasionally meet. Arranging our first meetings in person was something of a ni […]
  • Storm Still by Peter Handke June 15, 2014
    Storm Still (Immer Noch Sturm) does not necessarily represent new terrain for Handke. Originally published by Suhrkamp Verlag in 2010 and now available for English-language readers thanks to Martin Chalmers’ fluent translation, the play chronicles the dissolution of the Svinec family, a family of Carinthian Slovenes—a quasi-fictionalized version of Handke’s […]
  • Red or Dead by David Peace June 15, 2014
    David Peace's novel Red or Dead is about British football, but it partakes in the traits of Homer's epic. This is a novel about the place of myth and heroes in modern society, about how the cyclical rhythms of athletic seasons reflect the cyclical patterns of life. It is a book about honor and fate, and one which bridges the profound, dreamlike ter […]

Never Any End to Paris by Enrique Vila-Matas

The National just published my review of Never Any End to Paris by Enrique Vila-Matas. (I’ve also just completed an interview with Vila-Matas himself, to be published by The Paris Review later this year.)

If somehow you missed the first two Vila-Matas translations published by New Directions in 2007, this is your chance to make it up. Seriously; it’s inexplicable to me that an author this witty, fun, intelligent, and–dare I say–effortlessly profound doesn’t have more of a following in the U.S. Here’s quote from the review.

The question of literary influence is one that can make even the greatest authors nervous. With good reason Harold Bloom named his prominent theory of literary inheritance “the anxiety of influence.” Memorably, Hemingway, whose long shadow still menaces writers today, compared battling his influences to a boxing match: “I started off very quietly and I had Mr Turgenev; then I tried hard and I beat Mr Maupassant. I fought two draws with Mr Stendhal, and I think I had an edge in the last one. But nobody’s going to get me in a ring with Mr. Tolstoy unless I’m crazy or I keep getting better.”

The Spanish writer Enrique Vila-Matas neatly turns this all upside down: in his books that defy the divide between fiction and non-fiction, influence is not a minefield, so much as a vast source of literary raw materials. It’s a typical turnaround for Vila-Matas, who thrives on paradox and irony and has built a career by making literature out of seemingly anti-literary forms. Following in the footsteps of Borges’s “creative parasitism” (to quote Vila-Matas), it is his particular skill to create from projects that are almost derivative by definition literary objects of startling originality. English-language readers might have already seen his highly original, peculiarly postmodern approach to questions of influence, identity, and memory in Montano’s Malady and Bartleby & Co.

Few writers would dare wear their influences so blatantly on their sleeve, yet Vila-Matas positively revels in his . . .

And this is as good a time as any to reset my essay on Vila-Matas from back in 2008 covering Montano’s Malady and Bartleby & Co.

Befitting an author who entertains the notion that contemporary literature amounts to scribbling in the margins of the great works, Vila-Matas seems to be pioneering a strange new genre: the literary essay as novel. The first two of his books to appear in English, Bartleby & Co. and Montano’s Malady, are fine examples. Both translated by Jonathan Dunne and recently published in paperback by New Directions, these books, as any well-written essay might be, are positively saturated with quotes, references, glosses, and other signs of deep research; what’s more, the obvious scrupulousness (even exhaustiveness) with which Vila-Matas has looked into his subject matter seems more appropriate to a critical work than a novel. At a time when more and more novels are including lists of sources and footnotes, Vila-Matas’s books stand out both for their rigor and for making their sources an integral part of the text.

In Bartleby & Co. and Montano’s Malady Vila-Matas is grappling with the act of literary creation, and in the process he obsessively stares up at the works of his predecessors. The most important aspect of these two novels is how they are very consciously written from under the shadow of literature; these are books that are not only aware of the debts they owe to great authors—Kafka, Musil, Beckett, Gide, and Robert Walser among them—but that seem to be written desperately, as if the great works make their own existence virtually impossible. Each is trying to understand where the words come from—an author’s life? her imagination? dictated by the divine?—and each is based on the fear that after 2,000 years there may not be that much left to say.

Appropriately, the tone taken by the barely named first-person narrators of each novel rests somewhere between droll and depressed, treading a fine line between sarcasm and grief.

This is exciting literature, people, as good as any I’ve come across among contemporary authors. Don’t miss out.

You Might Also Like:

More from Conversational Reading:

  1. Good News for Enrique Vila-Matas Fans Via This Space, comes this: The four judges of the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize have made a surprise move by adding a title to the...
  2. Rumors of New Vila-Matas Translations Vila-Matas is a personal favorite—his Montano’s Malady is pure genius—so I’m excited to find out more about Dublinesca. And I did hear from Declan at...
  3. Enrique Vila-Matas Movie Now this is exciting. They've made a movie of one of Enrique Vila-Matas's books: El viaje vertical ("The Vertical Journey"). Vila-Matas is, of course, an...
  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...
  5. 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,...

Related posts brought to you by Yet Another Related Posts Plugin.

3 comments to Never Any End to Paris by Enrique Vila-Matas

Leave a Reply

  

  

  

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>