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Never Any End to Paris [Paperback]

Enrique Vila-Matas , Anne McLean

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Book Description

5 Jun 2014

After reading A Moveable Feast, aspiring novelist Enrique Vila-Matas moves to Paris to be closer to his literary idol, Ernest Hemingway. Surrounded by the writers, artists and eccentrics of '70s Parisian café culture, he dresses in black, buys two pairs of reading glasses, and smokes a pipe like Sartre. Now, in later life, he's reflecting on his youth while giving a three-day lecture on irony. And he's still convinced he looks like Hemingway.

Never Any End to Paris is a hilarious, playful novel about literature and the art of writing, and how life never quite goes to plan.


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Review

"Vila-Matas's touch is light and whimsical, while his allusions encompass a rogue's gallery of world literature" (The Economist)

"The most important living Spanish author" (Time Out New York)

Book Description

Trying to be Ernest Hemingway is never easy.

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Amazon.com: 4.4 out of 5 stars  7 reviews
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Irony and Autobiography 18 Aug 2011
By Reader and Writer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Visit one of the three predominant English bookstores in Paris on any given day and you'll see English speaking tourists demanding a copy Hemingway's A Moveable Feast. The myth of the writer lingers in Paris almost more than it does anywhere else. For the main character of Never Any End to Paris not only does he write a book reflecting on his early days as tinged with similarities to those of the young Hemingway, he believes he looks like Hemingway. He enters the Hemingway Look-Alike Context in Key West, Florida only to be disqualified for having an "absolute lack of physical resemblance to Hemingway." This does little, however, to diminish his conviction that every day he looks more and more like Hemingway. A hundred or so pages later the issue becomes more complicated. Our narrator meets a Spanish political exile who is dressed as young Hemingway and who when asked about this replies, "That's because I am Hemingway. I thought you'd realized that."

Enrique Vila-Matas is one of those writers you have to know; to know him start with this novel. Sparkling with odd coincidences, layered remembrances, and referential passages, the book spins a tale with a sort of grounded uncanniness. It is simultaneously an homage to Hemingway and other writers, a remembrance of things passed and past, and a conference speech in progress. The author describes his days living in a Paris garrett and working on a book titled The Lettered Assassin, which must refer to Vila-Matas' book in Spanish titled La asesina ilustrade from 1977, that he hopes will cause the death of each reader as soon as the last page is reached. In fact once the book is written it's sort of the death of Paris because the writer moves back to Barcelona. This is also a book about authors the writer met or did not meet and about what it means to be a young writer possessing questions, energy, and hope in about equal proportion as told by the older writer now filled with irony.

Like A Moveable Feast, worked on by Hemingway late in life and published only after his death, the story is that of a well-read author taking a backward look. Vila-Matas however loves to toss in his own brand of referential game. For example, the young writer is invited to hear the famous author Georges Perec at a secret event. He shows up, gives the password, and watches an imposter (he'd already met Perec and so he knew what he looked like) relate a story about a scrivener who sits behind a folding screen refusing to do anything. The author leaves stating, "I didn't understand a thing." In a novel such a statement is always a sort of Nabokovian tip off. The scrivener story is the Herman Melville short story Bartleby the Scrivener who when asked to do his job always replies, "I would prefer not to." But it spins deeper. Vila-Matas' first book to be published in English was Bartleby & Co., a novel about writers who stop writing, often for years, which poses the question: can not-writing be as artistic and as productive as writing? What if a writer simple prefers not to write? Vila-Matas style is similar to that of Javier Marias or Roberto Bolano meaning expect less plot and more literary fun. Here one reads to jump into the maze, to get lost the winding streets of a remembered Left Bank, Hemingway territory. Vila-Matas is a significant and exceptional writer who thankfully, for those of use who do not speak Spanish, is now being published in English. This is novel two in English; another is projected to come out this fall, then we can hopefully look forward to the remaining eighteen. Willard is also a reviewer for BookPleasures.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Writing After the End 22 Jun 2011
By Eric Lundgren - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Most serious writers, I imagine, come to a point in their writing lives when they think: "This literature thing is played. There's nothing to add. All that's left is embroidery." Enrique Vila-Matas, unlike most most writers, isn't reduced to despair or paralysis by this statement; his work takes indebtedness as a starting point and can be read as one immense acknowledgments page. This is his third book to appear in English translation, after "Bartleby & Co" and "Montano's Malady." We can only hope that more are on the way.

The text presents itself as a memoir of artistic youth in 1970s Paris, delivered as an academic lecture on irony many years after the fact. In short, not a typical bildingsroman by any means, although the young and somewhat naive protagonist is clearly a version of Vila-Matas himself: on hiatius from a legal career in Barcelona, living in a bohemian garret run by Marguerite Duras, and working on a first novel called "The Lettered Assassin," which centers around a fictional text that will kill its readers.

"I suspected that by killing off my readers, I was never going to find anyone who would love me," the narrator comments at one point, and this is typical of the way Vila-Matas undercuts his younger self. At the same time, the novel genuinely evokes the ardor, mortification, and occasional joy of being a young writer in a greatness-haunted city: Perec, Burroughs, Beckett, and Barthes all have cameos here. In some ways this book is about the older, deskbound writer forging an ironic distance from his unruly young self. But traces of that early passion remain and nothing escapes scrutiny, not even irony.

The book is beautifully built, beginning with a disqualification from a Hemingway lookalike contest and ending with an anecdote about Marguerite Duras and an unpaid electric bill that sums up everything Vila-Matas's work is about. This is maybe his most pleasurable book, and certainly a welcoming entry point to a body of work that deserves much wider recognition in this country.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Recommended 11 Jun 2011
By Remy G - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
For those in the USA who have not read Vila-Matas and read little in translation, let me describe his writing as follows: Imagine Paul Auster at his best. Enrique Vila-Matas is galaxies better. Have you read "Flaubert's Parrot" by Julian Barnes? Now we're at least on the same field.

For those like me who had only read "Bartleby & Co" by Vila-Matas previously and enjoyed it, let me say that you will be quite pleased. As pleased as you will also be by diving into Rubem Fonseca and Luis Fernando Verissimo, to name a few.

For those who are only interested because Roberto Bolano said you should be, do not expect this to be Bolano-esque. "2666" was a beast in its own right; however, the shorter fiction of Vila-Matas is arguably as strong as that of Bolano.
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent read! 16 Aug 2013
By Shirley Musich - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Ordered this book after reading Bartleby & Co. Never Any End to Paris has some of the same themes. Bittersweet in spots but Via-Matas brings a unique perspective to writing and writers. Enjoy his writing very much!
5.0 out of 5 stars Memoirs Without Memories 7 July 2013
By Oliveira - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This is an autobiography without the biography. Or memoirs without memories. Those statements could sound unintelligible but I can't think of better words to describe the great -and intelligible- style of Enrique Vila-Matas. Never Any End to Paris is the exacerbation of that style. Let me explain myself. In order for an autobiography to stick to the traditional rules of the genre, the author has to possess acute, or at least clear, memories of what he is recounting. He/she should possess a clear concept of himself/herself. Vila-Matas does not follow these rules and Never Any End to Paris -which could be thought as a book that conveys the impossibility of writing books- becomes the autobiography of a person who does not recognize himself in the man he was in the past or in the man he is when he looks at himself in the mirror.

What I find the most interesting about this book is how Vila-Matas (or the narrator) comes to like the idea of originality: through his liking of the literature of Georges Perec, through the eccentricities of his friend and tutor Marguerite Duras, or through discrete geniuses who live in the margins of society (for example, a transvestite named Vicky Vaporú who ends up being probably the only sane person in the book.)

Never Any End to Paris belongs to that literary genre of books that endlessly reference other books and authors. Metafiction, you would call it. Vila-Matas, I believe, takes the genre to another level. While constantly referencing Hemingway's A Moveable Feast, he creates a book of his own (Hemingway's sad Parisian years become Vila-Matas' happy years) and makes a confession about the uselessness of literary creation in a world that has lost its moral and metaphysical values.

Make no mistake. Vila-Matas is one of the best writers/essayists (whatever you want to call it) writing in the Spanish language today.
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