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Bartleby And Co [Paperback]

Matas Vila , Jonathan Dunne

Price: CDN$ 17.54 & FREE Shipping on orders over CDN$ 25. Details
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Book Description

April 1 2007
Marcello, a humble clerk in a Barcelona office, unable to write, decides to search through literature for all possible Bartlebys, (so named after the character in Melville’s short story) who have had the urge to say “I would prefer not to.”
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: New Directions (April 1 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0811216985
  • ISBN-13: 978-0811216982
  • Product Dimensions: 20.3 x 13.4 x 1.4 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 227 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #527,130 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


" 'Vila-Matas has had the brilliant idea of tracking down literature's slackers- Bartleby and Co proposes a shadowy history of literature' - Alberto Manguel. 'Ingenious...An Excellent book...A work of honesty and profound beauty' - John Burnside, Scotland on Sunday. 'Bartleby and Co is set to become the book of the literary season... An enormously enjoyable and intelligent book, and if I am not mistaken, an important one' - El Pals. 'Told with considerable elegance and an admirable lack of melodrama' - Spectator" --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

About the Author

Enrique Vila-Matas was born in Barcelona in 1948. His first book appeared in 1973 and his novels have been translated into eleven languages. This is his first book to be translated into English. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Amazon.com: 4.1 out of 5 stars  9 reviews
19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars To write or not to write. Feb. 14 2005
By Javier A. Moreno - Published on Amazon.com
Bartleby and Co. is an excellent entrance to get into the extremely rich literary work of the Barcelonian writer Enrique Vila-Matas. Described as a "series of footnotes of an invisible -unexistent- book", it compiles, following a labirinthic order, the observations of an early-retired writer about a pretty recurrent phenomenon among writers that he calls the "negating literature" (literatura del no). Mixing reality and fantasy, Vila-Matas gives account of the most interesting cases of writers, like Bartleby or Salinger, who stopped writing for good at some point in their lives. It is also a marvelous tour through contemporary literature and, at a higher level, it can be seen as a metaphor of abandonment and negation that explores the reasons we have for writing and telling stories and also as a homage to all those brave men and women who have decided to devote their live to writing, who have taken such a dangerous (and slippy) path.

A great follow up for this book, if you liked it, is "El Mal de Montano" (I'm not sure it's translated to english already).
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Playful philosophy Nov. 8 2005
By Emma Pele - Published on Amazon.com
As a long-time admirer of Melville's Bartleby, I loved this book. I loved its celebration of refusal and devolution. A novel that refuses to be a novel, the book is an especially good read for aging writers who may not have "fulfilled their creative potential" as the self-help goes. Though most of us know of the long silences of writers like Salinger, I had little idea how many writers have gone silent and for the most subtle of reasons.
24 of 31 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fabulous book Jan. 15 2008
By James Elkins - Published on Amazon.com
Dear Mr. Vila-Matas,

I have no reason to think you will ever see this. Why, after all, should you spend your time reading the reviews on the English-language Amazon site? But I have decided to write this review as if I am writing it to you, because it's in the spirit of your book. And how will I describe this book? It is generous, open, friendly, conversational, and also -- I hope you did not think this was only going to be a friendly review -- also infuriating, loosely written, and hopelessly scattered.

The book is a treasure trove of wonderful books, because you report on many writers that your reader will not have heard of. I marked the margins of my copy with a dozen names that I will now have to go and read. At the same time, I was delighted to find the names of many others that I know and recognize.

And that leads me to my frustration. From very nearly the beginning of the book I found myself arguing with you. Your theme, you say, is "writers of the No," meaning writers who have, for one reason or another, stopped writing. But that is the crux of the matter, that "one reason or another." Writers stop writing for many different reasons. Beckett is not the same case as Rimbaud, and Melville is not the same as Hawthorne. Some were depressed, some tired, some scared, and some -- I would have thought they would be your only subject -- stopped because they felt that modernism (a word that is weirdly absent from your book) prohibited the endless production of novels.

I can hear you saying, Well, yes, but as I say in my book, this is a vast subject, and there are many nuances and many different cases that must be judged and weighed. Exactly. They are different, and where your book falls short (sorry, I am being honest because I do not think you'll see this letter) of, say, Blanchot or even Perec (whom you cite) is where it is necessary to really slow down and think about each individual case.

PS, please, some day, read Wittgenstein's Tractatus. You wouldn't have written what you did if you'd read it, and it might have changed your ideas about other silences as well.

Still, even though this sounds negative and even, I suppose, a bit petulant (or even arch in my mimicry of your easy way of writing), the book is wonderful. It is richer, more full of ideas and writers I want to know, than any academic book I can think of.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars "I would prefer not to." Nov. 26 2009
By R. M. Peterson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The book is named after the title figure in Herman Melville's short story "Bartleby the Scrivener." Melville's Bartleby is profoundly disengaged from life, and he responds to virtually every request, even those simply asking him to do his job as a scrivener or copy clerk, "I would prefer not to". Vila-Matas uses Bartleby as the prototype for authors who, in one way or another, preferred not to write. Presented as a series of footnotes to a "text that is invisible", BARTLEBY & CO. explores that denial and variants thereof through literature. Among the variants are writers who (somewhat paradoxically) never wrote, writers who vowed not to write again, those with writers' block, those who committed suicide, or those (like Thomas Pynchon) who are especially secretive.

In many respects, the book is an extended essay -- in turn, meditative, irreverent, witty, and (alas) also boring. But it is set in a context that is fictional, almost fantastical: the narrator (named Marcelo) is a reclusive hunchback, unsuccessful with women, who ultimately is fired from his job because he takes off too much time to pursue his obsession with "the literature of the No". The "footnotes" to the invisible text actually take the form of diary entries for the year 1999.

Much of BARTLEBY & CO. clearly is a commentary on contemporary literature or the "impossibility of literature," posing the question, among others, what is the future of literature? At other times, however, the book seems to be a somewhat impressionistic portrayal of existential ennui. (That latter aspect probably is responsible for the former dilemma.)

The novel certainly reflects quite extensive reading on the part of Vila-Matas. Among the writers who are mentioned (in rough order of appearance in the novel): Robert Walser, Robert Moretti, Juan Rulfo, Rimbaud, Socrates, Hofmannsthal and "Letter of Lord Chandos" (the "pinnacle of the literature of the No"), Robert Musil, Franz Kafka, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Valery Larbaud, Pepin Bello, Bobi Bazlen, Danielle Del Grudice, Robert Derain, Arthur Cravan, Hart Crane, Joseph Joubert, Chamfort, Felisberto Hernandez, J.D. Salinger, Fernando Passoa, Elias Canetti, Paul Celan, John Keats, Herman Broch, Mallarme, Herman Melville and Nathaniel Hawthorne, Oscar Wilde, Henry Roth, Juan Ramon Jimenez, Marcel Maniere, Derek Walcott, Thomas Pynchon, Guy de Maupassant, B. Traven, and Tolstoy.

If you are not familiar with Melville's story, I strongly recommend taking an hour to read it before starting BARTLEBY & CO. Those who have read the Melville story know that Bartleby is an odd duck. It is doubly fitting that this novel be named after him, because not only does it develop the "Bartleby syndrome" but it too is an odd duck, or an odd book. At first the conceit is interesting, but I found it overdone. Three-and-a-half stars.
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Writers of the No July 26 2009
By M. Haber - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I have written the most magnificent and brilliant review of this book, quite possibly the best-written review ever posted on Amazon. However, in writing something, anything, one realizes the limits of language, the unsolicited twists words make on a mind's unadulterated thoughts. Hence, the review for this book is on the shelves of universal literature, among the greatest books and reviews never written.

Thank you Mr. Vila-Matas

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