Review of Dublinesque

Didn’t think Dublinesque was quite as strong as some of Vila-Matas’s other books. My review at Bookforum.

Dublinesque is a book obsessed with how literature can meld with, alter, and even overwhelm a writer’s identity. Vila-Matas’s protagonist frequently worries that his career has effaced the “real him.” As he tells a newspaper reporter, “I don’t know myself. The list of books I have published seems to have obscured forever the person behind the books. My biography is my catalogue. But the man who was there before I decided to become a publisher is missing.” Later in the book, Riba quotes the novelist-philosopher Maurice Blanchot to good effect on this matter: “Would writing be to become, in the book, legible for everyone, and indecipherable for oneself?” Riba also sees literary ghosts—notably one shadowy man he takes for Samuel Beckett—and comes to identify with Leopold Bloom; from these figures he borrows contradictory characteristics with no discernable knot tying them together. To his horror, Riba comes to half-believe that, like Bloom, he is a character in a book, one written by Beckett, judging from the prose of the final fifty pages.

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Nice review Scott. I think you pretty much nailed why I didn’t feel quit as strongly about this novel as I wanted to. I don’t think it managed to reach the level of earlier works, nor rise to the occasion of its own potential. Nonetheless, still one of my favourites of the year. Also, thanks so much for the introduction to JOHN HAWKES–whom I’m currently obsessed with.

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