Book Beat’s Reading Group selection for August is Bartleby & Co. by Enrique Vila-Matas. The Reading Group will meet Wednesday, August 21st at 7pm in the Goldfish Tearoom (117. w. Fourth st. in Downtown Royal Oak). Books are discounted 15% at Book Beat. All are welcome!
In Bartleby & Co., Enrique Vila-Matas tackles the theme of silence in literature: the writers and non-writers who, like the scrivener Bartleby of the Herman Melville story, in answer to any question or demand, replies: “I would prefer not to.” Addressing such “artists of refusal” as Robert Walser, Robert Musil, Arthur Rimbaud, Marcel Duchamp, Herman Melville, and J. D. Salinger, Bartleby & Co. could be described as a meditation: a walking tour through the annals of literature. Written as a series of footnotes (a non-work itself), Bartleby embarks on such questions as why do we write, why do we exist? The answer lies in the novel itself: told from the point of view of a hermetic hunchback who has no luck with women, and is himself unable to write, Bartleby is utterly engaging, a work of profound and philosophical beauty.
“Vila-Matas has produced a postmodern paradox, something out of nothing, a positive out of a negative. His non-novel is highly original, both lucid and ludic.” – Mark Sanderson, Guardian UK
“Many of the footnotes read as beautifully crafted, 1,000-word flash stories, and they’re usually shortened or juxtaposed versions of longer pieces. In these, Vila-Matas knows how to give just enough information to make a story meaningful without deflating it—in his artful condescension he often makes something new out of his source material. A wonderful side-benefit of this is that he makes you want to read all the books that he writes about, even (or especially) the nonexistent ones.” – Quarterly Conversation
“The long shadow of Georges Perec and OuLiPo falls across this ultimate subtext (which, naturally enough, also features Captain Nemo). Vila-Matas has produced a postmodern paradox, something out of nothing, a positive out of a negative. His non-novel is highly original, both lucid and ludic.” –The Guardian
“Reading a Vila-Matas novel is like watching someone weave a beautiful tapestry with one hand, while unraveling it, equally expertly, with the other.” –-The New Yorker
“Vila-Matas’s wildly original novels are all investigations of whether or not originality in fiction is still possible; every nook and cranny of literary history is explored and interrogated, the margin of every great novel frantically scribbled in.” –-Addled by Books
“A writer who does not write is a monster who invites madness” -Kafka
“I see myself as a little beast, like a caveman, but with a few degrees of contemporary neurosis. (laughter)” –Enrique Vila-Matasm from an Interview at Bomb Magazine
“Enrique Vila-Matas is a consistently rich and challenging contemporary Spanish-language novelist. Revered in France, a mentor to Bolaño and his Iberoamerican brood, his prose is a model of world literature” – World Literature Today. November 2012
Enrique Vila-Matas was born in Barcelona in 1948. His novels have been translated into eleven languages and honored by many prestigious literary awards. He is a Knight of the Legion of Honor from France. He has won the prize city of Barcelona and the Romulo Gallegos (2001), the Prix du Meilleur Livre Étranger and Fernando Aguirre-Libralire (2002), the Herralde prize, the National Critics, the Prix Medicis-étranger, the prize of Critics Circle Chile (2003), the Premio Internazionale Ennio Flaiano (2006), José Manuel Lara Foundation Award 2006, the prize of the Royal Spanish Academy 2006. In September 2007 he won the literary prize Elsa Morante Scrittori del Mondo, which rewards “to an important foreign author.”