The latest addition to my website is Enrique Vila-Matas‘ Aire de Dylan [Looks Like Dylan]. This book is somewhat different from many of his previous ones. Though it does start with the normal approach – our narrator invited to a conference on a specific theme – it then takes a completely different tack. The conference is in St Gallen, Switzerland, and is on the theme of failure. However, the only part of the conference we see is a talk by Vilnius Lancastre, which consists entirely of a story he has recently written, following the death of his father, Juan Lancastre, a semi-famous (but fictitious) writer. Vilnius hated his father with a passion, matched only by his hatred for his mother. Vilnius is a failure, as both of his parents never tired of telling him. Even this talk is a failure, as the interpretation facilities are not working properly so people drift away and the story is so rambling and discursive that even those who understand Spanish also drift away. However, though we start with the idea of a failure – and Vilnius clearly is one – we then move onto other themes. Vilnius is determined to track down the real author of a quote which appears at the beginning of a short film he has made but which was lifted from Three Comrades, a 1938 US film. We also deal with the issue of fiction vs reality, authenticity vs disguise and artifice and father/son relationships, particularly the problem of sons of famous fathers.
And Bob Dylan? Well, Vilnius looks like the young Bob Dylan and makes no attempt to hide the fact, even though he hates the nickname people sometimes give him of Little Dylan. Clearly, he is not Dylan but, as we know, it is often the mask that counts. However, his father looked like Dylan in the film Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid (see photo to the right). I did not enjoy this as much as some of his earlier books but it is still a worthwhile read. Sadly, though it has been translated into several languages, it has yet to appear in English or German.