Dietario voluble (Anagrama, 2010)
by Enrique Vila-Matas
As its very title suggests, it's not entirely clear whether Vila-Matas' nonfiction-like Dietario voluble [Unhinged Diary] is really a diary at all or rather a novel only disguised as a diary--a matter the mischievous Spaniard doesn't help with when he confesses that the overarching theme of his work is "tal vez mi incapacidad de decir la verdad" ["perhaps my inability to tell the truth"] (183). "Perhaps"! Whatever the case may be, this book fiend's equivalent of a compilation album featuring one of your favorite artists' odds and sods finds Vila-Matas getting his anecdotal and aphoristic groove on with a series of soundbites dedicated to the reading and writing life. In one 15-page span alone, for example, there are shout outs to the likes of Flaubert's pronouncements on the primacy of style ("La estética es una justicia superior" ["Aesthetics is a superior form of justice"]) (242); a tip of the hat to previously unknown to me author Ricardo Menéndez Salmón's fed up attack on "falsos escritores" ["false writers"]: "La literatura no es un oficio, es una enfermedad; uno no escribe para ganar dinero o caer bien a la gente, sino porque intenta curarse, porque está infectado, porque lo ha ganado la tristeza" ["Literature isn't a trade, it's a disease. One doesn't write to make money or to sit well with people but to try to heal oneself, because one's infected, because sadness has gotten the upper hand"] (230); and a memorable inside baseball tidbit about a pair of Vila-Matas visits with Pierre Michon highlighted by Michon's definition of the three types of non-false writers that exist in the world: 1) "el bárbaro" ["the barbarian"], as exemplified by Céline; 2) the intellectual in the style of Beckett; 3) a third type that combines the best of both worlds. In other words, "Faulkner or Bolaño" as Michon specified on both occasions (228-229). Mad, geeky fun not least for the sweet account of a pilgrimage to New Directions HQ in which Bolaño and Borges books are seen lined up like "vecinos neoyorquinos en la red del tiempo" ["New York neighbors in the net of time"] (141) and the entirely unexpected and non-bookish moment a page later when Vila-Matas waxes on about "la música hipnótica" ["the hypnotic music"] of CocoRosie and riffs on "el llamado espíritu lo-fi" ["the so-called lo-fi spirit"] of the Casady sisters (142). Rockin'!
Vila-Matas & Bolaño in Blanes, 1998
This sounds as if it could be considered a companion piece to Bartleby & Co, his celebration of the writers of the No. Either way, it all seems very Vila-Matas!ResponderBorrar
I think most of his books sound like they could be companion pieces to Bartleby, Jacqui, but yes more that book than the more novel-like Never Any End to Paris say. In any event, very Vila-Matas indeed!Borrar
I think you summed it up for me, in the very beginning, with the term "mischievous Spaniard." Which I find so many of them to be!ResponderBorrar
Currently enjoying Javier Marias, though, who is becoming one of my favorites. It's the fourth book of his I've read, Tomorrow in The Battle Think On Me.
Vila-Matas is inordinately mischievous, Bellezza, but Marías can be so at well in his own way. If you haven't really experienced that side of Marías yet, please check out the novella Bad Nature, or with Elvis in Mexico for a particularly good example. Cheers!Borrar