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Bartleby & Co. by Enrique Vila-Matas

Bartleby & Co. (edition 2007)

by Enrique Vila-Matas, Jonathan Dunne (Translator)

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4601822,586 (3.92)49
Title:Bartleby & Co.
Authors:Enrique Vila-Matas
Other authors:Jonathan Dunne (Translator)
Info:New Directions (2007), Paperback, 192 pages
Collections:Your library, Read in 2011
Tags:Fiction, Metafiction, Books About Books, Bartleby, Homage, Literature, Writers, Writing, Writers Block, Vignettes, Footnotes, Structure, LT Inspired, per eairo, Translated, a2009, 2011, Unfinished

Work details

Bartleby & Co. by Enrique Vila-Matas

Recently added byaltikkun, Himalmitra, private library, aileverte, InezGard, iman82, Jernsaksa, kittylafong
  1. 00
    The Savage Detectives by Roberto Bolaño (poetontheone)
    poetontheone: Another highly meditative book by a revered Spanish language novelist that examines the nature of literature and writing while containing tonal elements of the absurd and the surreal.
  2. 00
    Mr Gwyn by Alessandro Baricco (thorold)
    thorold: Writers who stop writing

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English (13)  Catalan (2)  French (1)  Italian (1)  Spanish (1)  All languages (18)
Showing 1-5 of 13 (next | show all)
A fascinating collection of anecdotes about writers who turned away from writing, or writers who, paradoxically, never wrote at all. You'd think that such a study in negation would leave bitter taste in your mouth, a loss and a sadness, but that is not the case. These accounts are often whimsical, and even beautiful. I found myself moved, often to laughter, while reading this work. There is also no shortage of opportunity for contemplation here, for readers and writers a like, about the very nature and purpose of literature. The book also serves as a road map to discovering a great variety of writers one would not come across otherwise. Sadly, for the non-Spanish speaker, many writers in this book are Spanish or Latin American and obscure at that, so readng them may not be an option. Despite that, you will find your pencil underlining the titles of intriguing works as well as marking beautiful passages that are to be found right here in this book. ( )
3 vote poetontheone | Jul 10, 2015 |
The raison d'etre of this book could be taken to be on page 177, in this, about Tolstoy: "He had renounced writing for good and, with the strange gesture of his escape, announced the modern belief that all literature is the denial of itself." ( )
  V.V.Harding | Apr 21, 2015 |
A collection of meditations on writers who stopped writing that never quite gels into something coherent. The usual suspects (Melville, Salinger, Rimbaud) are discussed along with an unsurprising assortment of fellow travellers such as Kafka, Duchamp, and Pessoa. There are several writers mentioned that piqued my interest, Chamfort for example, and it is nice to find the story of B. Traven retold. As a grab bag of literary anecdote this is splendid, but the novel lacks insight and the fictional framework is underdeveloped. ( )
  le.vert.galant | Jan 26, 2015 |
Vila-Matas è una bella scoperta. La Spagna genera questi scrittori geniali (penso a Mendoza e Marìas, tra gli altri) che producono scritture defatiganti da un lato (la cui lettura rinvigorisce proprio fisicamente), curiose dall'altro (perche' la capacita' immaginifica messa in opera è sostenuta da una intelligenza unica).

Nello specifico, questo saggio erudito è qualcosa che puo' indurre consolazioni e nello stesso tempo tragedie.

Consolazioni per gli scrittori mancati, per gli artisti in itinere, per i contemplativi, per i poeti da un verso: a tutti costoro l'esistenza dei bartleby dispersi nel mondo della letteratura non puo' che giovare, inducendo coraggio grazie alla compagnia.

Ai lettori, tragedie: se lo scrittore dice no, perche' il lettore non potrebbe dire altrettanto, limitandosi a pensare di leggere, attendendo le condizioni giuste per poterlo fare? Perche' non uno zio Celerino dei lettori?

Forse solo nella speranza di reincontrare, come in un sogno gioioso e vitale, altri narratori come questi. ( )
  bobparr | Dec 14, 2014 |
If this were a musical composition, it would be a theme and variations. The theme is this: a published author stops writing and disappears from the literary scene. The variations have to do with the whys and wherefores of individual cases and mention is made of one or two who have the opposite problem: they write so prolifically they cannot stop and cannot finish.

The author announces in his opening paragraph what the reader has to look forward to:

I never had much luck with women. I have a pitiful hump, which I am resigned to. All my closest relatives are dead. I am a poor recluse working in a ghastly office. Apart from that, I am happy. Today most of all because, on this day 8 July 1999, I have begun this diary that is also going to be a book of footnotes commenting on an invisible text, which I hope will prove my reliability as a tracker of Bartlebys.

Who are these Bartlebys?

We all know the Bartlebys, they are beings inhabited by a profound denial of the world. They are named after the scrivener Bartleby, a clerk in a story by Herman Melville . . .

Why is it a work of fiction? Primarily because that is the way it is couched by the author. To be sure, it is unconventional, but that is the very nature of postmodernism. The point of departure is Melville's short story. Bartleby was merely a copyist, a scrivener in nineteenth century terms. He was not a writer per se. Enrique Vila-Matas has made a bit of a leap to conflate Bartleby's cessation of scrivening with published authors who have stopped writing. They are not really the same thing. But Vila-Matas has chosen to ignore this small discrepancy and has built his entire novella around a fictional Bartleby's syndrome.

Examples of Bartleby's syndrome in literature Vila-Matas calls alternatively "the literature of the No," which turns out to be a labyrinth with gradually enlarging dimensions and lacking a center, for he eventually realizes "there are as many writers as ways of abandoning literature." In his search for the writers of No, he

. . . sails very well among fragments, chance finds, the sudden recollection of books, lives, texts or simply individual sentences that gradually enlarge the dimensions of the labyrinth without a center.

This book is fun right from the beginning. The prospect of reading 86 footnotes to an "invisible text" produces an inner smile and prepares the reader to be amused. There are a couple of laugh-out-loud points where absurdity goes too far, in particular the reports of a fanciful correspondence with Derain, but mostly it reads like a fairly serious yet fascinating collection of critical essays.

Among the writers we meet are Arthur Rimbaud, J.D. Salinger, Herman Melville of course, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Franz Kafka, Thomas Pynchon and many, many others more or less connected to the literature of No, including recent acquaintances Felisberto Hernandez and Bruno Schulz

Vila-Matas is as much a philosopher as a novelist and this book is full of quotable quotes and thought-provoking passages:

• The writer has nothing to expect from others. Believe me. He only writes for himself.

• . . . a text, if it wishes to be valid, must open up new paths and try to say what has not yet been said.

• We all of us wish to rescue, via memory, each fragment of life that suddenly comes back to us, however unworthy, however painful it may be. And the only way to do this is to set it down in writing.

Most of all we want to look up the works of many of the writers discussed. Taken altogether, I loved this book. It goes directly onto the stack of books to be reread. ( )
6 vote Poquette | Aug 26, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 13 (next | show all)
This slender, beautiful and honest work is about invisible writers and their phantom books.
added by Flit | editThe Hindu, Pradeep Sebastian (Dec 7, 2008)
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.
added by Flit | editThe Guardian, Mark Sanderson (Aug 14, 2004)

» Add other authors (9 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Enrique Vila-Matasprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Dunne, JonathanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hazaiová, LadaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Strien, PetraÜbersetzersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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De roem of de verdienste van sommige mensen bestaat erin dat ze goed kunnen schrijven; die van andere dat ze niet schrijven.
Jean de la Bruyère
The glory or the merit of certain men consists in writing well; that of others consists in not writing

Jean de la Bruyère
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Voor Paula van Parma
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Ik heb nooit veel succes gehad bij de vrouwen.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0811216985, Paperback)

A marvelous novel by one of Spain's most important contemporary authors, in which a clerk in a Barcelona office takes us on a romping tour of world literature.

In Bartleby & Co., an enormously enjoyable novel, 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.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:10:06 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

"Marcelo, a clerk in a Barcelona office who might himself have emerged from a novel by Kafka, inhabits a world peopled by characters from literature. He once wrote a novel about the impossibility of love, but since then he has been able to write nothing, and a nervous breakdown has meant that he has not even been able to put pen to paper. He has, in short, become a "Bartleby", so named after the scrivener in Herman Melville's short story who, when asked to do anything, always replied, "I would prefer not to."" "One day Marcelo sets out to make a search through literature for all those other possible Bartlebys who, for whatever reason, have had the urge to say "No," and with this in mind he has the engaging notion of keeping a diary and writing footnotes to an invisible text."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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