Enrique Vila-Matas: Historia abreviada de la literatura portátil (A Brief History of Portable Literature)


The latest addition to my website is Enrique Vila-MatasHistoria abreviada de la literatura portátil (A Brief History of Portable Literature). This novel (?) follows a format similar to several of his other works, in that he takes a literary idea – in this case portable literature – and sets off on a bizarre and often seemingly random journey through literature, often with only minimal connection to the subject at hand, bringing in a range of writers, many obscure and quite a few fictitious, though the fictitious ones are mixed in with the real ones. Portable literature involves a portable desk that some writers used, which can fold up to look like a case and then open up to be used as a desk, e.g. on a train. However, while this theme appears in the book, the society that is created by the Shandies (named after the novel Tristram Shandy) as the portables call themselves, is really a society of outcasts and misfits, ranging from the well-known such as Robert Walser and Salvador Dalí, the less-known such as Paul Morand and Jacques Rigaut and the fictitious, such as Werner Littbarski and Berta Bocado. They are haunted by doppelgängers called Odradeks (named after a character in a Kafka novella). They travel around. They have rules (no marriage, high sexuality, innovative and disinterest in grand statements, a tireless nomadism, a fraught coexistence with doppelgängers, a sympathy for negritude, and the cultivation of the art of insolence.) The author himself puts in a brief appearance. It is all great fun and will increase your knowledge of literature. it is, in my opinion, one of his better and more enjoyable books.

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