By Enrique Vila-Matas

A wonderful novel via one in all Spain's most crucial modern authors, within which a clerk in a Barcelona place of work takes us on a romping journey of worldwide literature.In Bartleby & Co., an tremendously stress-free novel, Enrique Vila-Matas tackles the topic of silence in literature: the writers and non-writers who, just like the scrivener Bartleby of the Herman Melville tale, in solution to any query or call for, replies: "I would like now not to." Addressing such "artists of refusal" as Robert Walser, Robert Musil, Arthur Rimbaud, Marcel Duchamp, Herman Melville, and J. D. Salinger, Bartleby & Co. might be defined as a meditation: a jogging travel in the course of the annals of literature. Written as a sequence of footnotes (a non-work itself), Bartleby embarks on such questions as why can we write, why will we exist? the reply lies within the novel itself: instructed from the viewpoint of a airtight hunchback who has no success with girls, and is himself not able to write down, Bartleby is totally attractive, a piece of profound and philosophical attractiveness.

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Worse is what occurred to me afterwards. Fortunately I did not decide to 79 put it into practice. It occurred to me to approach Salinger and say to him, "Gosh, how I love you, Salinger. Would you mind telling me why you have not published anything in so many years? " Fortunately I did not go up to Salinger and ask him such a thing. But I have to confess I had an even worse idea. I considered going up to Shirley and saying to her, "Please don't misunderstand, Miss. My card. I live in Barcelona and I have a good job, though I'm off sick at the moment, which is how I've managed to travel to New York.

What a mix-up, I thought, all of this is happening to you because you fell in love with Shirley, but also because you spotted her next to the elusive Salinger. I realised that to approach Shirley and tell her I loved her deeply and was nuts about her was a bad idea. Worse is what occurred to me afterwards. Fortunately I did not decide to 79 put it into practice. It occurred to me to approach Salinger and say to him, "Gosh, how I love you, Salinger. Would you mind telling me why you have not published anything in so many years?

And what's more, his wife, standing next to him, laughed at her husband's joke. I bought one newspaper less from them than usual and asked her why she did not write. She sank into thought, and for a moment I nourished the 52 53 hope that her response might be more illustrative than those I had obtained previously. " In view ofits success, I left the survey for another day. " Atxaga is quite clearly showing the first symptoms of Bartleby's syndrome. " In his opinion, there are t~o many conferences, conventions, interviews and book launches.

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