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Bartleby & Co. Paperback – May 23, 2007


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 178 pages
  • Publisher: New Directions (May 23, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0811216985
  • ISBN-13: 978-0811216982
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.3 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #513,681 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

Perfect. Beautiful. Wistful. There's no hint of irony in these words of praise for Bartleby & Co. -- Thomas McGonigle, Los Angeles Times

About the Author

Enrique Vila-Matas was born in Barcelona in 1948. His novels have been translated into eleven languages and honored by many prestigious literary awards including the Prix Médicis Etranger. Author of Bartleby & Co., Montano’s Malady, and Never Any End to Paris, he has received Europe’s most prestigious awards and been translated into twenty-seven languages.

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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Javier A. Moreno on February 14, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Bartleby and Co. is an excellent entrance to get into the extremely rich literary work of the Barcelonian writer Enrique Vila-Matas. Described as a "series of footnotes of an invisible -unexistent- book", it compiles, following a labirinthic order, the observations of an early-retired writer about a pretty recurrent phenomenon among writers that he calls the "negating literature" (literatura del no). Mixing reality and fantasy, Vila-Matas gives account of the most interesting cases of writers, like Bartleby or Salinger, who stopped writing for good at some point in their lives. It is also a marvelous tour through contemporary literature and, at a higher level, it can be seen as a metaphor of abandonment and negation that explores the reasons we have for writing and telling stories and also as a homage to all those brave men and women who have decided to devote their live to writing, who have taken such a dangerous (and slippy) path.

A great follow up for this book, if you liked it, is "El Mal de Montano" (I'm not sure it's translated to english already).
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Emma Pele on November 8, 2005
Format: Hardcover
As a long-time admirer of Melville's Bartleby, I loved this book. I loved its celebration of refusal and devolution. A novel that refuses to be a novel, the book is an especially good read for aging writers who may not have "fulfilled their creative potential" as the self-help goes. Though most of us know of the long silences of writers like Salinger, I had little idea how many writers have gone silent and for the most subtle of reasons.
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24 of 31 people found the following review helpful By James Elkins on January 15, 2008
Format: Paperback
Dear Mr. Vila-Matas,

I have no reason to think you will ever see this. Why, after all, should you spend your time reading the reviews on the English-language Amazon site? But I have decided to write this review as if I am writing it to you, because it's in the spirit of your book. And how will I describe this book? It is generous, open, friendly, conversational, and also -- I hope you did not think this was only going to be a friendly review -- also infuriating, loosely written, and hopelessly scattered.

The book is a treasure trove of wonderful books, because you report on many writers that your reader will not have heard of. I marked the margins of my copy with a dozen names that I will now have to go and read. At the same time, I was delighted to find the names of many others that I know and recognize.

And that leads me to my frustration. From very nearly the beginning of the book I found myself arguing with you. Your theme, you say, is "writers of the No," meaning writers who have, for one reason or another, stopped writing. But that is the crux of the matter, that "one reason or another." Writers stop writing for many different reasons. Beckett is not the same case as Rimbaud, and Melville is not the same as Hawthorne. Some were depressed, some tired, some scared, and some -- I would have thought they would be your only subject -- stopped because they felt that modernism (a word that is weirdly absent from your book) prohibited the endless production of novels.

I can hear you saying, Well, yes, but as I say in my book, this is a vast subject, and there are many nuances and many different cases that must be judged and weighed. Exactly.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By R. M. Peterson TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 26, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The book is named after the title figure in Herman Melville's short story "Bartleby the Scrivener." Melville's Bartleby is profoundly disengaged from life, and he responds to virtually every request, even those simply asking him to do his job as a scrivener or copy clerk, "I would prefer not to". Vila-Matas uses Bartleby as the prototype for authors who, in one way or another, preferred not to write. Presented as a series of footnotes to a "text that is invisible", BARTLEBY & CO. explores that denial and variants thereof through literature. Among the variants are writers who (somewhat paradoxically) never wrote, writers who vowed not to write again, those with writers' block, those who committed suicide, or those (like Thomas Pynchon) who are especially secretive.

In many respects, the book is an extended essay -- in turn, meditative, irreverent, witty, and (alas) also boring. But it is set in a context that is fictional, almost fantastical: the narrator (named Marcelo) is a reclusive hunchback, unsuccessful with women, who ultimately is fired from his job because he takes off too much time to pursue his obsession with "the literature of the No". The "footnotes" to the invisible text actually take the form of diary entries for the year 1999.

Much of BARTLEBY & CO. clearly is a commentary on contemporary literature or the "impossibility of literature," posing the question, among others, what is the future of literature? At other times, however, the book seems to be a somewhat impressionistic portrayal of existential ennui. (That latter aspect probably is responsible for the former dilemma.)

The novel certainly reflects quite extensive reading on the part of Vila-Matas.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By M. Haber on July 26, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I have written the most magnificent and brilliant review of this book, quite possibly the best-written review ever posted on Amazon. However, in writing something, anything, one realizes the limits of language, the unsolicited twists words make on a mind's unadulterated thoughts. Hence, the review for this book is on the shelves of universal literature, among the greatest books and reviews never written.

Thank you Mr. Vila-Matas
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