Enrique Vila-Matas

Enrique Vila-Matas was born in Barcelona in 1948. He studied law and journalism, and in 1968 became a columnist for the magazine Film Frames. In 1970 he directed two short films, All Young People Grieve and End of Summer. In 1971, he performed military service in Melilla, where in the back of a military grocer’s shop he wrote his first book, Women in the Mirror Contemplating the Landscape. On his return to Barcelona, he worked as a film critic for magazines Bocaccio and Destiny. For two years he lived in Paris and rented an attic that was once rented by the writer Marguerite Duras; there he wrote his second novel, The Illustrated Killer. His third and fourth books, South of the Eyelids and Never Am Going to the Movies, appeared in 1980 and 1982, but were only promoted in 1985 with his book The Abbreviated Laptop History of Literature. He then published Forever Suicides, and Children without Children, two books of short stories. Then he moved on to the romantic genre with works such as Far from Veracruz, Strange Life Form, The Vertical Travel, Bartleby and Company, and Mountain Sickness among others. In 1992, he published a collection of articles and essays The Slower Passenger, followed by a second collection in 1995, The Sunday Suit. Other books that contain literary essays: To End the Round Numbers (1998), From the City Nervosa (2000), Strange Laboratory Notebooks (2003, published in Venezuela) Although Not Understanding Anything (2003, published in Chile), The Light Wind in Parma (2004, published in Mexico, reprinted in 2008 in Spain), and Pasavento Was No Longer (2008, published in Argentina). He wrote about his experience in Paris: Paris is Not Just Never (Barcelona, 2003). In 2005 he published Doctor Pasavento which revolves around the theme of the disappearance and “the difficulty of not being anybody.” The book closes his trilogy Metaliteraria on the Pathologies of Writing (Bartleby, Montano, Pasavento). In September 2007, he returns to the story published in Anagrama “Explorers of the abyss.” In 2008 he published “Dietari Fickle”, which increasingly favors a formula that blurs the boundaries between fiction, essays and biographies. The book is a journal or kind of literary guide that allows glimpses of the internal architecture of his work and combines the experience of reading with the experiences of life, personal memory and the ideas of a literary essayist. 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.”

Related Articles

Vampire in Love

Fiction by Enrique Vila-Matas

Translated from the Spanish by Margaret Jull Costa

Gathered for the first time in English, and spanning the author’s entire career, Vampire in Love offers a selection of the Spanish master Enrique Vila Matas’s finest short stories. An effeminate, hunchbacked barber on the verge of death falls in love with a choirboy. A fledgling writer on barbiturates visits Marguerite Duras’s Paris apartment and watches his dinner companion slip into the abyss. An unsuspecting man receives a mysterious phone call from a lonely ophthalmologist, visits his abandoned villa, and is privy to a secret.…
More Information

Because She Never Asked

Fiction by Enrique Vila-Matas

Translated from the Spanish by Valerie Miles

Because She Never Asked is a story reminiscent of that reached by the travelers in Patricia Highsmith’s Stranger on a Train. The author shall write a piece for the artist Sophie Calle to live out: a young, aspiring French artist travels to Lisbon and the Azores in pursuit of an older artist whose work she’s in love with. The second part of the story tells what happens between the author and Calle.…
More Information

Illogic of Kassel

Fiction by Enrique Vila-Matas

Translated from the Spanish by Anne McLean Anna Milsom

A puzzling phone call shatters a writer’s routine. An enigmatic female voice extends a dinner invitation, and it soon becomes clear that this is an invitation to take part in the documenta, the legendary exhibition of contemporary art held every five years in Kassel, Germany. The writer’s mission will be to sit down to write every morning in a Chinese restaurant on the outskirts of town, transforming himself into a living art installation.…
More Information

A Brief History of Portable Literature

Fiction by Enrique Vila-Matas

Translated from the Spanish by Thomas Bunstead Anne McLean

An author (a version of Vila-Matas himself) presents a short “history” of a secret society, the Shandies, who are obsessed with the concept of “portable literature.” The society is entirely imagined, but in this rollicking, intellectually playful book, its members include writers and artists like Marcel Duchamp, Aleister Crowley, Witold Gombrowicz, Federico García Lorca, Man Ray, and Georgia O’Keefe. The Shandies meet secretly in apartments, hotels, and cafes all over Europe to discuss what great literature really is: brief, not too serious, penetrating the depths of the mysterious.…
More Information

Dublinesque

Fiction by Enrique Vila-Matas

Translated from the Spanish by Anne McLean Rosalind Harvey

Dublinesque opens with a renowned and retired literary publisher’s dream: he finds himself in Dublin, a city he’s never visited, and the mood is full of passion and despair. Afterwards he’s obsessed with the dream, and brings three of the writers he published on a trip to the same cemetery where Paddy Dignam was buried in James Joyce’s Ulysses, where they hold a funeral for “The Gutenberg Age.“ And then he notices that he’s being shadowed by a mysterious man who looks exactly like Samuel Beckett……
More Information

Never Any End to Paris

Fiction by Enrique Vila-Matas

Translated from the Spanish by Anne McLean

This brilliantly ironic novel about literature and writing, in Vila-Matas’s trademark witty and erudite style, is told in the form of a lecture delivered by a novelist clearly a version of the author himself. The “lecturer” tells of his two-year stint living in Marguerite Duras’s garret during the seventies, spending time with writers, intellectuals, and eccentrics, and trying to make it as a creator of literature: “I went to Paris and was very poor and very unhappy.…
More Information

Bartleby & Co.

Fiction by Enrique Vila-Matas

Translated from the Spanish by Jonathan Dunne

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.…
More Information

Montano’s Malady

Fiction by Enrique Vila-Matas

Translated from the Portuguese by Jonathan Dunne

The narrator of Montano’s Malady is a writer named Jose who is so obsessed with literature that he finds it impossible to distinguish between real life and fictional reality. Part picaresque novel, part intimate diary, part memoir and philosophical musings, Enrique Vila-Matas has created a labyrinth in which writers as various as Cervantes, Sterne, Kafka, Musil, Bolaño, Coetzee, and Sebald cross endlessly surprising paths. Trying to piece together his life of loss and pain, Jose 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 Valparaiso.…
More Information

Exercises in Style: 65th Anniversary Edition

On a crowded bus at midday, Raymond Queneau observes one man accusing another of jostling him deliberately. When a seat is vacated, the first man appropriates it. Later, in another part of town, Queneau sees the man being advised by a friend to sew a new button on his overcoat. Exercises in Style, Queneu’s experimental masterpiece and a hallmark book of the OULIPO literary group, retells this unexceptional tale in ninety-nine exceptional ways, employing writing styles such as the sonnet and the alexandrine, onomatopoeia and even Cockney.…
More Information

Through its mesmerizing structure, it asks bold questions about the nature of storytelling, and contrasts the ways in which the novelist and the fine artist construct narratives.

—Tobias Carroll, Signature Reads

Vila-Matas is one of the most celebrated writers in Europe. His work has been translated into over thirty languages. His novels, artful and experimental and mixed with a strong tradition of storytelling, are ideal for anyone who’s a fan of Paul Auster, J.M. Coetzee, or Roberto Bolaño.

—Mark Haber, Brazos Bookstore

With oft-remarkable prose, wit, and more than a little playfulness, Vila-Matas’s short fiction reveals an artisan as comfortable (and as skillful) in brevity as he is in longer form. Vampire in Love ably demonstrates the wide variety of storytelling hues available on Vila-Matas’s literary palette.

—Jeremy Garber, Three Percent

The literary tradition of Spain feels most ingenious when playfully blurring genres, and the Catalan novelist Enrique Vila-Matas may well be the current master of that.

—Yasmine El Rashidi, Artforum

Vila-Matas seems determined to test that faith, crafting tales of surrealist noir in which virtually anything can happen except happiness.

The New Yorker

Rare is a talent with supernatural ability to bring fuse genre and literary fiction, but Vila-Matas does it effortlessly. Be prepared to have your breath taken away…

—Michael Barron, The Culture Trip

He equips both with shreds of certainty, wisps of desire, then sends them spinning into a world of blurred categories, strange tempos, multiplying selves, confused identities. His are lands in which everything is contested, and where absences – whether in the form of romantic loss, thwarted hopes, memory, failure or death – are pervasive, patient, often inevitable.

—Matthew Adams, The National

These stories swerve in unexpected directions… Vila-Matas fills his fiction with forlorn characters, yet never have so many stories about distressed personalities been so incredibly amusing.

Publishers Weekly

Readers not befuddled by the twists and turns Vila-Matas packs into a few pages are likely to be enchanted by narrators who are never quite trustworthy (‘I treated other people’s memories as mine, and that is why I can now boast of having had a life’), offbeat setups, and brilliant language. Odd stories with a bite: cynical, funny, and often puzzling.

Kirkus Reviews

The tremendously touching characters in Enrique Vila-Matas’s novels—who stumble from one place to the next, not really sure where they are going, but always on a quest—are so deeply comical on the one hand, and so deeply poignant on the other, that you just have to give yourself up to it because you’re in the hands of a master.

—Paul Auster

One of Spain’s most distinguished novelists.

—Rachel Nolan, The New York Times

With his ironic worldview and playful sense of fatality, Vila-Matas’s reputation as a writer of intellectually stimulating but accessible novels looks set to grow among English-language readers.

The Wall Street Journal

In only 84 pages, Vila-Matas has crafted a dizzyingly original work… Brief History Of Portable Literature is a work by a deeply serious writer, dressing up his paean to the writer-reader relationship in the trappings of an experimental and lighthearted little book.

The AV Club

Vila-Matas is a remarkable ironist, a skill he deploys throughout Kassel and A Brief History as sly humour, but also as a destabilization technique to create nebulous, discomfiting spaces…

—Pasha Mall, The Globe and Mail

For Vila-Matas, literature is a chamber of echoes. But rather than thinking of this as a criticism, this is to be embraced—one of literature’s eternal beauties.

—Tristan Foster, Words Without Borders

This is an earnest novel, but it’s also rollicking, a passionate defense of literature as an essential element of public life and, more generally, of art in a time of numbers.

—Valerie Miles, New York Times

Vila-Matas is a master.

Publishers Weekly

I don’t know Vila-Matas personally, nor am I planning to meet him. I prefer to read him and let his literature pervade me.

—Pedro Almodóvar

Enrique Vila-Matas is playful and funny and among the best Spanish novelists.

—Colm Tóibín

An elegant and ironic writer.

—Rachel Nolan, The New York Times Book Review

An enjoyable journey through the mind of a magnificent Spanish author.

Publishers Weekly

His intelligent playfulness and his fervor for written language are visible on every page and highlighted by this excellent translation. Vila-Matas is a master, one of the most gifted contemporary Spanish novelists.

Publishers Weekly

Vila-Matas’s touch is light and whimsical, while his allusions encompass a rogue’s gallery of world literature.

Time Out New York

Arguably Spain’s most significant contemporary literary figure.

—Joanna Kavenna, The New Yorker

Vila-Matas’s work made a tremendous impression on me. I was so fascinated by his humor, the incredible knowledge he has of all kinds of literature, his compassion for writers, and his fearlessness in taking on literary subjects and making that part of what he is writing about.

—Paul Auster

Enrique Vila-Matas has pioneered one of contemporary literature’s most interesting responses to the great Modernist writers.

The Paris Review

An elegant and ironic writer. Vila Matas is one of Spain’s most distinguished novelists.

—Rachel Nolan, The New York Times

I don’t know Vila-Matas personally, nor am I planning to meet him. I prefer to read him and let his literature pervade me.

—Pedro Almódovar

A writer who has no equal in the contemporary landscape of the Spanish novel.

—Roberto Bolaño

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.

—Morten Høi Jensen, Dublin Review of Books

[Dublinesque] is enjoyable for its madcap energy, and its ability to relish its own absurdity and make well-worn literary references feel new.

Bookforum

By lifting the heavy weight of the past, by setting irony against dogmatism and rigidity, Vila-Matas allows his characters, and us, to contemplate the future.

The New Yorker

The accent of Vila-Matas’s project falls on an accomplished romanticism conscious of its historicity, an artist-worship taken to maturity that concurrently absents and introduces itself into the work at every moment.

Los Angeles Review of Books

A touching account of facing down mortality with a passion and an obsession for literature.

The New York Times Book Review

It is Vila-Matas’ style of writing that distinguishes him as one of the best living authors today, and what makes Dublinesque a must read book.

The Coffin Factory

The Spanish novelist is a master of that problematic enterprise of literature: the death-defying highwire act of telling the truth through lies, of invoking reality through fiction.

The Millions

Both shocking and gratifying for the reader…Dublinesque offers the reader layer upon layer of secrets that only she is privy to, and the effect is thrilling.

Full Stop

The novel is about the death of the author in more senses than one. Funerals make a kind of art out of death, and so does Dublinesque

London Review of Books

From his latest raid into the literary jungle Vila-Matas has brought home a fine specimen of that most endangered of intellectual species, the literary publisher.

—*The Guardian *

His writing is filled with withdrawal and disappearance, and so it is withDublinesque, one of the most pleasurable and joyous novels of the year.

The Independent

Hugely entertaining, witty and informed, a pleasure to read.

The Irish Times

Vila-Matas…has no equal in the contemporary landscape of the Spanish novel.

—Roberto Bolaño

A writer who has no equal in the contemporary landscape of the Spanish novel.

—Roberto Bolaño

A writer who has no equal in the contemporary landscape of the Spanish novel.

—Roberto Bolaño
< Robert Walser Camilo José Cela >