Mac and His Problem
Enrique Vila-Matas, Margaret Jull Costa, Sophie Hughes
LONGLISTED FOR THE 2020 INTERNATIONAL BOOKER PRIZE
Enrique Vila-Matas’s new novel is perhaps his greatest: ‘playful and funny and among the best Spanish novelists’ (Colm Toibin)
Mac is not writing a novel. He is writing a diary, which no one will ever read. At over sixty, and recently unemployed, Mac is a beginner, a novice, an apprentice – delighted by the themes of repetition and falsification, and humbly armed with an encyclopaedic knowledge of literature. Mac’s wife, Carmen, thinks he is simply wasting his time and in danger of sliding further into depression and idleness. But Mac persists, diligently recording his daily walks through the neighbourhood. It is the hottest summer Barcelona has seen in over one hundred years.
Soon, despite his best intentions (not to write a novel), Mac begins to notice that life is exhibiting strange literary overtones and imitating fragments of plot. As he sizzles in the heatwave, he becomes ever more immersed in literature – a literature haunted by death but alive with the sheer pleasure of writing.
Intricate, erudite and practically fizzing on the page, Mac and His Problem is a masterpiece of metafiction and a testament to the power and playfulness of great literature.
Like W.G. Sebald, Geoff Dyer and, more recently, writers such as Rachel Cusk, Teju Cole and Ben Lerner, Vila-Matas manages to create a productive uncertainty in the reader's mind through his disorientating effects... One of the distinct pleasures of Vila-Matas' books is that they function as little libraries stuffed with other authors' works * Literary Review * [Vila-Matas] chooses humour in a way that allows him to have big ideas while relentlessly making fun of them * Sunday Telegraph * A metafictional paean to storytelling... Diary, essay, thriller, conspiracy theory, posthumous memoir, novel-Vila-Matas uses all the materials to construct his latest metafictional fun house. * Kirkus Reviews * Vila-Matas's bouncy prose is the highlight of this lively ride through a writer's mind. * Publishers Weekly * Playful and funny and among the best Spanish novelists -- Colm Toibin The tremendously touching characters in Enrique Vila-Matas's novels who stumble from one place to the next, not really sure where they are going, but always on a quest are so deeply comical on the one hand, and so deeply poignant on the other, that you just have to give yourself up to it because you're in the hands of a master. -- Paul Auster Arguably Spain's most significant contemporary figure * New Yorker * A writer who has no equal in the contemporary landscape of the Spanish novel -- Roberto Bolano In this lively and inquisitive work of metafiction, a story about stories, Vila-Matas is as deliberate as he is playful, and induces the not altogether unpleasant sensation of getting lost ever deeper in a literary hall of mirrors -- Alastair Mabbott * Herald *
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