Bartleby & Co. (Enrique Vila-Matas)

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BARTLEBY & CO. is Spanish author Enrique Vila-Matas’ strange and unconventional novel about writers who can’t (or don’t) write, tackling silence in literature. In a series of footnotes (part anecdote, part philosophical) he explores the history of writers who were “artists of refusal,” that is, writers who refused to write, or writers who wrote once and stopped—or perhaps wrote, but only for themselves. Erudite, wistful and immensely readable, BARTLEBY & CO. explores phantom books and invisible texts; it ponders projects abandoned and confidence usurped. Vila-Matas’ protagonist writes that a book knocks at our door, and “when we go receive them, they disappear; we open the door and they are no longer there. It was undoubtedly a great book, the great book that was inside us, the one we were really destined to write, our book, the very book we shall never be able to write or read now. But that book, let it be clear, exists.” 


What do Franz Kafka, J.D. Salinger, Arthur Rimbaud and more have in common? Mainly they were all “writers of the no” - authors who by choice or chance, bad luck or the times in which they lived, resolved to stop writing. The novel’s namesake has much in common with his creator, for Herman Melville, as in Bartleby’s famous line, ‘I would prefer not to,’ spent the second half of his life in almost total publishing silence. For anyone interested in the writers who existed between the margins or didn’t find (or chase) success or were abandoned by fate, this is the book for you. As our narrator tells is, “there are as many writers as ways of abandoning literature.”

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ISBN: 9780811216982
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: New Directions Publishing Corporation - April 1st, 2007

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