The latest addition to my website is Enrique Vila-Matas‘ Una casa para siempre [A House Forever], a very inventive post-modern Spanish novel. The Great Greppi is a ventriloquist – he will go on to be very successful – and he tells his story, not in a continuous narration but with a series of vignettes of his life, some of which are life-changing, other of which just casual encounters, occasionally with real-life people such as Marguerite Duras. The key event of his childhood was when his friend Laura was raped and brutally murdered by a rich but clearly mentally disturbed old man. He and his friends found the body of the old man, hanging from a tree, covered in snow and did not realise it was him till, by throwing snowballs at it, the snow came off. As a young adult, when he is in Paris, the brother of his friend Marguerite is murdered in a similar way to the way Laura was murdered and both suspect Pedro, now living in Paris as well, but who was one of the boys throwing snowballs at the old man.
We also, naturally, see some of his relationships – his marriage to Helga (who was really called Ida) that lasts only a few days, and his relationship with Elena, which led to a son, Julio, whom he first met when Julio was seventeen years old, after Elena had died. In particular, we see his relationship with Reyes, a former singer, who had lost her voice, and whom he hires, when in Seville, to be his assistant. They instantly have a rapport, both personal and professional. However, they row all the time, with his dummy Samson, being very much involved and, eventually, he fires her. He immediately regrets this and searches for her all over the world, till he finds her on the same bill as him in Lisbon, She is now with the Barber of Triana and he asks her to leave the barber and come back to him. What happens next is left deliberately ambiguous. Unreliable narrators, both Greppi and others to whom he speaks, a narration that does always hang together and unexplained gaps all make this a post-modernist but also a highly enjoyable novel. Sadly, it is not available in English though you can read it in Romanian (and French and German).