The latest addition to my website is Iván Thays‘ La disciplina de la vanidad [The Discipline of Vanity], a superb Peruvian post-modern novel about writers and writing. The nominal plot is a conference organised by the Spanish Centre for Young Writers. They have invited young authors from all over the Spanish-speaking world to a conference in a converted prison near Malaga. Thays uses this outline to both discuss serious issues related to writing and writers, including the issue of the difference between writing and being a writer, as well as to mock the various foibles of writers and different nationalities. It is witty, it is intelligent, it teaches us a lot about writing and writers and is a joy to read. Interestingly enough, this theme of being a writer as opposed to writing came up in today’s Observer with reference to the awful Martin Amis, who is certainly someone who seems to have spent more time on being a writer than writing quality works. Thays and Amis are worlds apart. It is very sad that Amis is far better known than Thays, as it should be the other way round. If you can read Spanish, read the Thays and if you cannot, don’t read Martin Amis. It will be a waste of your time.