A Universal History of Infancy?on January 30th, 2012
The following writers who appear in Bartleby & Co. I believe to be inventions of Enrique Vila-Matas (the number refers to the chapter reference):
- 1. Roberto Moretti, author of Institute Pierre Menard, a parody of Walser’s Institute Benjamenta, in which “pupils are taught to say “no” to over a thousand proposals”.
- [less certain] 3. Asselineau, author of The Musician’s Hell – a Charles Asselineau, who was a friend of Baudelaire, did indeed write a book called L’Enfer du Bibliophile, which can be read here. (Though you’d have thought V-M would have rather gone for the “bibliophile”). I’d be grateful if someone could verify this: Vila-Matas says it “tells of the terrible hallucinations endured by a composer condemned to hear all his compositions performed both well and badly on all the pianos in the world simultaneously”.
- 3. Marius Ambrosinus, who is quoted as saying “In my opinion, God is an exceptional person.” He has a plausible name (reminds me of Aurelius Ambrosius, aka Ambrose of Milan), but, as far as I can ascertain, non-existent.
- (7. Bobi Bazlen – does seem to exist, though I’ve heard it bruited elsewhere on the internet that he’s made up – Roberto Bazlen – unless it turns out he is an elaborate invention of Daniele del Giudice (I had a copy of this book once, may still do somewhere)).
- 9. Clément Cadou (though he seems to have developed a life since Vila-Matas’ book), who always wanted to be a writer but, upon meeting Witold Gombrowicz one day, conceived he was nothing more than a piece of furniture, and spent the rest of his career painting pieces of furniture under the title “Self-Portrait”. Also, therefore, the story Georges Perec wrote about him, “A Portrait of the Artist Seen as a Piece of Furniture, Always”. A hard one to prove – you’d be almost convinced he existed, and I really wasn’t sure – but then I discovered proof: on Vila-Matas’ website, no less, there’s a photograph of Clément Cadou which, for a moment, made my heart sink, but as I looked at the photo I thought: wait a minute, I’ve seen that face before: isn’t that, Vila-Matas himself? (He mentions Cadou quite a bit in that piece: I’ll have to get my Spanish dictionary out some time and read it). (You think this story sounds mad anyway and you’d never conceive it as genuine, but the LA Times, in its review, considered it “the most haunting story” in the book.)
- 11. Robert Derain, author of Eclipses littéraires (see for instance, this article by Vila-Matas himself), which should come as no surprise to the reader since he’s an important character in the novel
- 45. Rita Malú, see above – a writer included within Eclipses littéraires.
- 60. Antonio de la Mota Ruiz, creator of the character Paranoid Pérez, who, every time he has an idea for a book, discovers that José Saramago has just written it.
- 64. Marcel Maniere, author of Perfumed Hell, see previous post.
- 78. Klara Whoryzek, author of The Intimate Light. (Perhaps Vila-Matas recollects that Kafka was once engaged to a Julie Whoryzek).
I figure that’s it. The others seem to check out (though I might have missed some names). Further verification or questioning of existences is most welcome. What I haven’t had the time or energy to pursue, though, is the more worrying question: not whether these writers exist, but whether what is said of, or attributed to, them is actually true.
Next post: I actually review Bartleby & Co..