sábado, 12 de julio de 2014

La asesina ilustrada

La asesina ilustrada (Tusquets Editor, 1977)
by Enrique Vila-Matas
Spain, 1977

I have good news and bad news for you Spanish Lit Month yobbos tonight.  The good news is that the previous Vila-Matas that I read, 1985's devilishly entertaining Historia abreviada de la literatura portátil, is finally going to be translated into English next year just in time for its 30th anniversary.  The bad news is that the most recent Vila-Matas that I read, 1977's disappointing La asesina ilustrada, well, let's just say that it really isn't all that entertaining at all.  Now a book about a manuscript that kills is a killer idea to be sure--especially one blessed with such an inspired title as La asesina ilustrada, which can be rendered as either The Illustrated Assassin or The Well Read Killer or even The Killer Made Famous,* three descriptions which fit the villainous title text to a t--but unfortunately this sophomore effort from the young Vila-Matas is rather plodding in its attempts to cobble together a death-by-writing spin on the locked room mystery and entirely lacking in all the biting wit and genre-bending storytelling savoir-faire to be found in later works by the author.  As proof of the 88-page novella's soporific qualities, I have absolutely zero quotes from La asesina ilustrada to share for which I apologize in the timeless words of an actual memorable villain from non-Spanish Lit Month days gone by: "Youths!  I invoke your sympathy.  Maidens!  I claim your tears."

*[Edit: Thanks to JacquiWine and Stu for informing me that La asesina ilustrada has been rendered into English as The Lettered Assassin in the translation of EV-M's Never Any End to Paris: a much better choice than any of the "creative" ones I submitted above!]

Enrique Vila-Matas

13 comentarios:

  1. Villa-Matas mentions this work in Never Any End to Paris. It's available in French, but he seemed so muted about it that I wasn't much tempted to track it down, especially as it seemed a bit too much like a succinct Infinite Jest and/or that Monty Python killer-joke skit. Then again, did you consider the possibility that it may be an intentionally meta-fictional suggestion that the manuscript kills its victims by boring them to death? Hmmmmm?

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    1. Scott, I decided to spare everybody my joke that was almost identical to that "intentionally meta-fictional suggestion" of yours about the manuscript boring people to death. However, I like you how you think! The one good thing that came out of this read for me as a Vila-Matas fan, though, was in seeing how a flip must have been switched in Vila-Matas' head at some point somewhere between 1977 and 1985; the time frame in question is short enough that it'd be nice to think that I might actually be able to sort out what led Vila-Matas to his change in style, and maybe Never Any End to Paris even holds the key.

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  2. I think his retrospective view of this work in Never Any End to Paris was funny, if ambivalent. I'm currently lost in the middle of Montano's Malady and I don't want to find my way back.

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    1. I'll probably read Never Any End to Paris as my next Vila-Matas selection, Rise, both because of its La asesina ilustrada connections (which I knew about ahead of time) and because it's been lying around my house for a couple of years already now. Montano's Malady has some great stuff in it, but I didn't find it as consistent as Bartleby & Co.. A good book to get lost in, though, for sure!

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  3. I never read Vila-Matas, but I guess now I know where not to start. So what is his best novel?

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    1. Miguel, Bartleby & Co. is the best place for you to start both because it's far and away the best of the four novels of V-M that I've read to date and because it has a bit on a character who thinks Saramago is stealing all his book ideas telepathically. Great stuff and, in retrospect, yet another book that's probably indebted to the Crónicas de Bustos Domecq in imagination, humor, and style.

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  4. Like a couple of others have mentioned, Vila-Matas references this book in 'Never Any End to Paris' (which I absolutely loved). What a shame 'La asesina ilustrada' didn't live up to expectations. That's good news about 'Historia abreviada de la literatura portátil', though. Swings and roundabouts, as they say.

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    1. I'm not too bent out of shape about this book, JacquiWine, as it's obvious that Vila-Matas was still finding his way at the time as a young writer and all. I am getting more and more curious about Never Any End to Paris, though, both because of its connection to this book and because everybody I know who's read it has seemed to like it. In any event, I have no doubt that Historia abreviada de la literatura portátil will be a treat for many once it's translated.

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    2. Excellent! My review of 'Never Any End to Paris' should be up on Thursday.

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  5. For a change, one to strike off my TBR. It's been a while since I read Bartleby so must line up another Vila-Matas.

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    1. I like Vila-Matas a lot, but I'll be sticking to post-1985 novels from him for a while.

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  6. Hay libros que inspiran miedo. Miedo de verdad. […] leía entonces una novela breve en una de cuyas páginas se advertía al lector que a partir de ese momento podía morirse. Es decir que se podía morir literalmente, caerse al suelo y no levantarse. La novela era La asesina ilustrada, de Enrique Vila-Matas, y que yo sepa ninguno de sus lectores se murió aunque muchos salimos transformados después de su lectura, con la certeza de que algo había cambiado para siempre en nuestra relación con la lectura…

    Roberto Bolaño

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