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The Loss Library and Other Unfinished Stories [Hardcover]

Ivan Vladislavic , Sunandini Banerjee

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Book Description

Feb. 15 2012 Seagull Books - The Africa List

“Not writing is always a relief and sometimes a pleasure. Writing about what cannot be written, by contrast, is the devil’s own job.”

In this unusual text, a blend of essay, fiction, and literary genealogy, South African novelist Ivan Vladislavic explores the problems and potentials of the fictions he could not bring himself to write.
 
Drawing from his notebooks of the past twenty years, Vladislavic records here a range of ideas for stories—unsettled accounts, he calls them, or case studies of failure—and examines where they came from and why they eluded him. In the process, he reveals some of the principles that matter to him as a writer, and pays tribute to the writers— such as Walser, Perec, Sterne, and DeLillo—who have been important to him as both a reader and an author. At the heart of the text, like a brightly lit room in a field of debris, stands Vladislavic’s Loss Library itself, the shelves laden with books that have never been written. On the page, Vladislavic tells us, every loss may yet be recovered.
 
An extraordinary book about both the nature of novels and the process of writing, The Loss Library will appeal to anyone seeking to understand the almost magical and mythical experience of breathing life into a new work of fiction.
 
Praise for Vladislavic
 
“In the tradition of Elias Canetti, a tour de force of the imagination.”—André Brink
 
“The prose is stunning. It gives the impression of the words and the phrases having been caught from the inside—as though the author lives on the other side of language, where every word is strange and dancing, and the way they are put together produces complicated patterned exchanges like minuets.”—Tony Morphet
 

 


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Review

"[A] thought-provoking collection—some of these stories may, indeed, be more successful as failures than if they had been completed. And The Loss Library is also a truly lovely book (as object)."

(M.A. Orthofer, The Complete Review)

“I couldn't resist the allure of Ivan Vladislavic’s book of might-have-beens, and now that I’ve finished it, I am totally charmed by its originality and elegance.”

(Christopher Reid, author of A Scattering and The Song of Lunch)

"Ivan Vladislavic writes with a passion about his subjects that incites concision. With the thematic unity he's established, we come to see his assemblage of personal losses as part of wider losses of art throughout history, though he never says so. Thus, this odd book accrues a richness at having covered both personal and historical ground within the territory of the author's mind."
(Matthew Jakubowski The National)

The Loss Library is a beautifully made book. Illustrations by Sunandini Bannerjee are tipped into the opening pages of chapters—their distortions, suggestions and incompletions complement the author’s intent and style. There is a sly slightness to the book, an airiness that inspires wonder about the elusive narratives all around us.”
(Ron Slate On The Seawall)

About the Author

Ivan Vladislavic is the author of The Folly, The Restless Supermarket, The Exploded View and Double Negative. Sunandini Banerjee is an editor, translator, and graphic designer who lives and works in Calcutta.
 

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Amazon.com: 5.0 out of 5 stars  1 review
5.0 out of 5 stars Writing about what cannot be written Sept. 25 2013
By ANNE - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is a wonderful insight into the writer's mind. It really is an "extraordinary book about both the nature of novels and the process of writing" to quote the dust-jacket. The honesty and clarity of Ivan's writing never fails to inspire me. Reading of his wrestlings with ideas and with characters or plots that will not settle down into novels is very informative and something not many writers ever share; a writer can learn from a master how to hone their craft.

Besides being beautifully and carefully written account of decisions made and expeditions into story abandoned, The Loss Library is a work of art in its own right. Each of the "stories" is different: some are dreamlike and surreal – like the Loss Library itself, others pragmatic and ironic. Some cast light on earlier fiction by Vladislavic who is surely one of the best writers living in South Africa at the moment.

The final paragraph says it all: "Not writing is always a relief and sometimes a pleasure. Writing about what cannot be written, by contrast, is the devil's own job. Yet words on a page make all things possible. Any line, even this one, may be a place to begin." Thank you again, Ivan for a unique book.
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