Vila-Matas Interview at The Paris Review

The Paris Review has just published my interview with Enrique Vila-Matas. It can be read here.

This comes on the occasion of the publication of his third book in English, Never Any End to Paris. The other two are Bartleby & Co and Montano’s Malady, and I recommend them all.

As I’ve said many times, here and elsewhere, Vila-Matas has pioneered what I see as a highly successful vision of what literature is in a post-“anxiety of influence” age. To put it all in a way that doesn’t reduce quite so well into a soundbyte, in The Western Canon Harold Bloom writes of Borges that he “overtly absorbs and then deliberately reflects the entire canonical tradition.” If that’s Borges, then Vila-Matas is overtly absorbed by the canon, which he then mutates from within. Although, that’s not quite it, since Vila-Matas’ canon isn’t your typical canonical canon; it’s more like a canon made from explorers of the abyss (to steal a title of an untranslated Vila-Matas book), a canon that almost entirely existed in inter-war Paris.

If that sounds like the kind of thing you want to associate yourself with, then you can find out more by reading my review of Never Any End to Paris, as well as my essay on Vila-Matas’ two prior books.

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Maybe I’ve always misunderstood the concept of the “anxiety of influence” but isn’t part of the point that we never escape it? If you’re writing poetry for example, you’re always going to be influenced by those you read and are inspired by right? I’m just not sure how someone who is “overtly absorbed by the canon” is not influenced by the canon.


The Surrender is Veronica Scott Esposito’s “collection of facts” concerning how she embraced her true gender.


Two long essays of 10,000 words each on sex in—and out of—literature . . .

The first essay dives in to Nicholson Baker’s “sex trilogy,” explaining just what Baker is up to here and why these books ultimately fail to be as sexy as Baker might wish.

From there the book moves on to the second essay, which explains just why Spaniard Javier Marías does right what Baker does wrong . . .


5 essays. 2 interviews.

All in all, over 25,000 words of Latin American literary goodness.

3 never-before-published essays, including “The Digression”—a 4,000-word piece on the most important digression in César Aira’s career.

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