Posts featuring Enrique Vila-Matas

Weekly Dispatches from the Frontlines of World Literature

Updates from Spain, Morocco, and the United States, from the Asymptote team

This week, we visit Morocco with new Editor-at-Large Jessie Stoolman, who tells us about a new play based on a classic novel. Then in Spain, we have a publishing update with Editor-at-Large Carmen Morawski, and onto the United States, we strap in for today’s Presidential Inauguration and writers’ reactions to the historic event. 

Editor-at-Large Jessie Stoolman reports from Morocco:

A theatrical interpretation of Mohammed Khair Ed-dine’s novel Le Déterreur [نباش القبور], adapted by Cédric Gourmelon and starring Ghassan El-Hakim, is currently on tour in Morocco, with the next performance set to take place on January 21 at the House of Culture [دار الثقابة] in Tetouan.  In the novel, a man from southern Morocco shares his countercurrent perspectives on living in a marginalized community inside a wider, fractured, postcolonial space as he recounts his life story.

Winner of numerous literary awards, including Jean Cocteau’s Les infants terribles literary prize for his novel Agadir, Khair Ed-dine (or “The Blue Bird,” as he is sometimes called) mainly wrote poetry and novels in French. He is credited with establishing a new style of writing, what he coined guérilla linguistique, that resists, in both form and content, linguistic or societal domination. Considering his prolific contributions to the genre of revolutionary writing, it is unsurprising that Khair Ed-dine is commonly grouped among renowned, twentieth century North African authors writing in French, such as Assia Djebar, Yacine Kateb, Abdellatif Laabi, Driss Chraibi, and Tahar Ben Jelloun.

Some of Khair Ed-dine’s work has been translated into German and English. For more about the German translation of his posthumously published novel Once Upon a Time There Was a Happy Couple (Es war einmal ein glückliches Paar), Qantara.de published this article, which includes a summary of the book with excerpts and information about the writer.  Similarly, to read a sample of Khair-Eddine’s poetry translated into English, see this piece from Jadaliyya, that includes four poems from his collection Ce Maroc!

In other literary news, only a few more weeks until Morocco’s largest book fair will be back!  The 23rd edition of the International Book Fair in Casablanca will open on February 9.

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My 2015

For me, being able to chew on something I’ve read throughout my day is as essential as the coffee that gets things moving in the morning.

I’ve been lucky enough to have enjoyed most everything I’ve read this year and a number stick out in my mind (Erpenbeck’s End of Days and Luiselli’s The Story of My Teeth for instance), but the two I’m writing about here occurred one after the other in the past month: Enrique Vila-Matas’ Because She Never Asked and Daniel Sada’s One Out of Two. I wonder, though, if it’s not recency-bias so much as the circumstances under which I read them.

I’ve been working a short term job–which happens to have ended today, which sounds like the intro to one of Vila-Matas’ books, come to think of it–and found myself riding the L on a daily basis for the first time in years. I try to travel without a bag, so having books that fit into an inner pocket of my vest is somewhat key (and inner pockets in one’s jacket: so very, very key). Both these volumes, slim and not overly tall, were ideal travel companions on those grounds and, what’s more, somehow enhanced the physical experience of riding the train, too.

Because She Never Asked is as playful as any of Vila-Matas’ work: stories within stories, diving and looping in and out of one another; narrators less unreliable than slowly unhinging; a prose that skips along at a pace at once jaunty and leisurely. In many ways (and as Michael Orthofer suggested in his review), Because She Never Asked functions as a great entry point to Vila-Matas, but I would also offer that this work is perfectly suited for a short trip on public transit. The story moves along, sure, which is something of a key component to anything read in a public space, but it also possesses a light density: that is, one can dip in and out without feeling like anything has been lost, but at some point, some aspect of the story will go off in one’s head, motivating a return to story, a desire to dive back in and parse it further. For me, being able to chew on something I’ve read throughout my day is as essential as the coffee that gets things moving in the morning. READ MORE…