Dublinesque by Enrique Vila-Matas
Spanish born writer Enrique Vila-Matas is the master of the non-novel. Like his other translated work, in particular Bartleby & Co and Never Any End to Paris, his latest novel, Dublinesque, is an exquisitely original book, one that showcases his talents for irony, paradox and parody, as well as his unique blending of fact and fiction.
Samuel Riba is a sixty-year old, retired literary publisher, whose ever-increasing anxiety attacks (blamed on both his giving up alcohol and the revolution of the digital age) are punctuated by his regular Wednesday afternoon visits to his elderly parents and his wife’s recent conversion to Buddhism. Until the night he has a vivid dream: a funeral, the printing press and that unknown character wearing a raincoat in Ulysses. Is this strange figure in Riba’s dream the great author he always wanted to discover, or some ghostly angel who abandoned him in childhood?
And so Riba concocts a plan to go to Dublin. Gathering together a group of friends, he sets off to hold, on Bloomsday, a funeral for the book, in honour of Joyce and the age of the Gutenberg press. He traces his journey across a bridge which connects the world of Joyce to that of Beckett, and what they symbolise: great literature, the difficulties faced by literary publishers, and, in the end, good readers, all trapped within ‘a society taking huge steps towards stupidity and the end of the world’.
Published on Bloomsday to coincide with the 90th anniversary of the publication of Ulysses, Dublinesque meanders along in true Vila-Matas style, blending literary reminiscences with present daydreams, and diverting from one place to the next with entirely absorbing digressions. The result is a witty, robust and moving story about literature, life, death and James Joyce.
Nicole Mansour is Assistant Manager at Readings St Kilda