“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