A puzzling phone call shatters a writer’s routine. An enigmatic female voice extends an invitation to take part in Documenta, the legendary contemporary art exhibition held every five years in Kassel, Germany. The writer’s mission will be to transform himself into a living art installation, by sitting down to write every morning in a Chinese restaurant on the outskirts of town.
Once in Kassel, the writer is surprised to find himself overcome by good cheer. As he strolls through the city, spurred on by his spontaneous, quirky response to art, he begins to make sense of the wonders that surround him.
'A writer who has no equal in the contemporary landscape of the Spanish novel'
'Vila-Matas's work made a tremendous impression on me'
A man's obsession with literature leads him to see the world through the eyes of fiction
Literature can be contagious; it can also be our only means of salvation. That at least is the experience of Montano, the 'unreliable narrator' of Enrique Vila-Matas' prize-winning novel, a man and a writer who is so obsessed with the books of certain celebrated contemporaries that he is unable to put pen to paper or utter a word without summoning up their work or their lives, and whose malady is that he finds it impossible to distinguish between real life and fictional reality. Part picaresque novel, part intimate diary, part memoir, part philosophical musings, Vila-Matas has created a labyrinth in which writers as various as Cervantes, Sterne, Kafka, Musil, Perec, Bolaño, Coetzee, Sebald and Magris cross endlessly surprising paths, while his protagonist leads the reader on an unsettling journey from European cities such as Nantes, Barcelona, Lisbon, Prague and Budapest to the Azores and the Chilean port of Valparaíso.
Yet for all the author's dazzling literary pyrotechnics, this is a novel that is always witty and accessible.
Trying to be Ernest Hemingway is never easy.
After reading A Moveable Feast, aspiring novelist Enrique Vila-Matas moves to Paris to be closer to his literary idol, Ernest Hemingway. Surrounded by the writers, artists and eccentrics of '70s Parisian café culture, he dresses in black, buys two pairs of reading glasses, and smokes a pipe like Sartre. Now, in later life, he reflects on his youth while giving a three-day lecture on irony. And he’s still convinced he looks like Hemingway.
Never Any End to Paris is a hilarious, playful novel about literature and the art of writing, and how life never quite goes to plan.
SHORTLISTED FOR THE INDEPENDENT FOREIGN FICTION PRIZE
'A writer who has no equal in the contemporary landscape of the Spanish novel.' Roberto Bolaño
Samuel Riba is about to turn 60. A successful publisher in Barcelona, he is increasingly prone to attacks of anxiety and, looking for distraction, he concocts a spur-of-the-moment trip to Dublin, a city he has never visited but once dreamed about.
He sets off for Dublin on the pretext of honouring James Joyce’s Ulysses on Bloomsday. But as he and his friends gather in the cemetery to give their orations, a mysterious figure in a mackintosh resembling Joyce’s protégé Samuel Beckett hovers in the background. Is it Beckett, or is it the writer of genius that Riba has spent his whole career trying, and failing, to find?
Marcelo, a clerk in a Barcelona office who might himself have emerged from a novel by Kafka, inhabits a world peopled by characters in literature. He once wrote a novel about the impossibility of love, but since then he has written nothing. He has, in short, become a 'Bartleby', so named after the character in Herman Melville's short story who, when asked to do something, always replied: 'I would prefer not to.'
One day Marcelo sets out to make a search through literature for all those other possible Bartlebys, and with this in mind he has the engagingly original notion of keeping a diary and writing footnotes to an invisible text. His references to authors, both real and invented, provide the reader with extravagant doses of humour that are at once hilarious, irreverent and stimulating.
Born in Barcelona in 1948, Enrique Vila-Matas is widely considered to be one of Spain's most important contemporary novelists, and Dublinesque has been declared his masterpiece. His extraordinary oeuvre, translated into 30 languages, includes Bartleby & Co, Montano (longlisted for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize) and Never Any End to Paris (a finalist for the Best Translated Book Award).