Vila-Matas Calls for Readers of Talent

Vila-matas 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 up in smoke, literature (and presumably art and maybe even culture) will still be standing. Andrew translates:

When we awoke from the dream of mortgages and those economic powers that we had believed eternal, when we awoke in the dead center of the maelstrom that had devastated everything, the book was still there. It was amazing, no one—but no one!—had succeeded in altering it, no one had moved it from its perpetual position.

Vila-Matas goes on to call for a new era of readers of talent:

In the flames of this dream of mortgages and the golden calf of the gothic novel, the stupid legend of the passive reader was forged. This monster’s fall is giving way to the reappearance of the reader of talent, and the terms of the moral contract between author and the public are being reframed. Those writers breathe once more who are desperate for an active reader, for a reader open enough to permit into her mind the figure of a conscience radically different from her own.

All I can add to that is I certainly hope he's right.

Curiously enough, I have lately gotten around to reading Vila-Matas's much-praised Historia abreviada de la literature portatil ("An Abbreviated History of Portable Literature"), which deals, in typical fashion, with the history of a fake secret soceity of literary "Shandys" initiated in between the wars in France. Vila-Matas ropes many real people into the movement (among theom Georgia O'Keefe, Man Ray, Karl Krause, and Duchamp), and the one apparently defining trait of the society is that they are enthusiasts of "portable" literature, whatever exactly that means.

It's an exceedingly odd book, which isn't saying much for Vila-Matas. So far there's been a wave of youth suicides caused by the radical denunciation of suicide by the only member of the group to kill himself, and I just got through with a chapter centered around an immense party thrown in Vienna to celebrate the discovery of an error in Krauss's paper, Die Fackel.

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