#BrazosBest: Vila-Matas Stories Translated at Last
Article by mark
Interview translated by Bárbara Volkmer Ruiz
What do The Paris Review, Bomb Magazine, and Brazos Bookstore have in common? We’ve all been lucky enough to interview the reticent Spanish author Enrique Vila-Matas, author of our current #BrazosBest pick, VAMPIRE IN LOVE!
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. VAMPIRE IN LOVE, his first collection of stories to be published in English, is a cause for celebration. Spanning his entire career and curated by world-renowned translator, Margaret Jull Costa, these stories are perfect for fans of Vila-Matas, as well as a great introduction to the world of this incredible author.
Thanks to his American publisher, New Directions, as well as Bárbara Volkmer Ruiz, who translated my original questions into Spanish as well as Vila-Matas’ answers into English.
Brazos Bookstore: How closely do you work with your English-language translators, if at all?
Enrique Vila-Matas: Margaret Jull-Costa, Valerie Miles, and Anne McLean have been my last three translators. With all three of them, there has been an exchange of correspondence, consultations, and stimulating commentaries. In all three cases, there has been a happy and very productive collaboration between the translator and the author.
BB: Recently, in the Unites States, literature in translation has become more popular, but especially literature translated from the Spanish. Is this something, living in Europe, that you've noticed?
EVM: I follow what is being translated in the United States, and I have not overlooked what we could call the "post-Bolaño boom." I have read and personally know many of those being translated lately in the United States, and I can finally see that what was considered a scandal and an injustice, the very minor presence of Spanish language literature, is coming to an end—a literature, by the way, that is more powerful every day, literarily speaking.
BB: VAMPIRE IN LOVE is your first collection of stories to appear in English. It spans many years of your writing career. Are you excited by the idea of your shorter works now being available for English readers?
EVM: Yes, of course. But it is in my understanding that essential titles in my work have yet to be translated and that would be decisively helpful with its overall comprehension. For example, the novel DOCTOR PASAVENTO, which together with BARTLEBY AND COMPANY and MONTANO’S MALADY form the trilogy known in Europe as THE METALITERARY CATHEDRAL. Without DOCTOR PASAVENTO, the other two are left incomplete. For example, a book that collected a selection of my best essays would also need to be published. Among these, brief texts which I consider essential such as UN PLATO FUERTE DE LA CHINA DESTRUIDA (on Bolaño) or PASEOS CON AUSTER (recently written).
BB: I don't know if you are aware, but in the United States, BARTLEBY AND COMPANY has become a very popular book among readers. A bit of a cult hit. I think the idea of "authors of no" or "writers of refusal" strikes a chord with many people. Do you look fondly on that particular novel?
EVM: I am aware of this. It has resonated with me as well. For years now, I have worked in the direction that book led me. This is very noticeable precisely in MAC Y SU CONTRATIEMPO, the novel I am publishing now in Europe and which I hope will soon be translated in the United States.
BB: Are there any current writers that you admire or wish were read by a wider audience?
EVM: I would prefer not to name anyone, because the authors who involuntarily are left off my list will be upset with me. But a good many admired writers can be found in the section “La vida de los otros” on my website.
Mark Haber is the store manager of Brazos Bookstore. He was a juror for the 2016 Best Translated Book Award. Besides being an advocate for translated literature his own short story collection, DEATHBED CONVERSIONS, is currently being translated into Spanish.