Enrique Vila-Matas’s new novel is perhaps his greatest: “playful and funny and among the best Spanish novelists” (Colm Tóibín)
Mac is currently unemployed and lives on his wife’s earnings. An avid reader, he decides at the age of sixty to keep a diary. Mac’s wife, a dyslexic, thinks he is simply wasting his time and risking sliding further into depression—but Mac persists, and is determined that this diary won't turn into a novel. However, one day, he has a chance encounter with a neighbor, a successful author of a collection of enigmatic, willfully obscure stories. Mac decides that he will read, revise, and improve his neighbor’s stories, which are mostly narrated by a ventriloquist who has lost the ability to speak in different voices. As Mac embarks on this task, he finds that the stories have a strange way of imitating life. Or is life imitating the stories? As the novel progresses, Mac becomes more adrift from reality, and both he and we become ever more immersed in literature: a literature haunted by death, but alive with the sheer pleasure of writing.
About the Author
ENRIQUE VILA-MATAS was born in Barcelona. He has received countless prizes and written numerous award-winning novels, including Bartleby & Co., Montano’s Malady, Never Any End to Paris, and Dublinesque.
Margaret Jull Costa, who has translated José Saramago and Machado de Assis, lives in England.
SOPHIE HUGHES has translated numerous Spanish-language authors, including José Revueltas and Fernanda Melchor for New Directions.
[Vila-Matas] charges the various tensions in his hybridized book: the artificial nature of plot and the apparent triviality of day-to-day existence, how life imitates art and art imitates life... Mac’s Problem boasts an impressive architecture.
— Eric Banks - Bookforum
Diary, essay, thriller, conspiracy theory, posthumous memoir, novel—Vila-Matas uses all the materials to construct his latest metafictional fun house.
Literature is a space of twinned opposing forces: danger and refuge, death and life, and regrets and longing. Enrique Vila-Matas guides us into this treacherous realm so completely that I have learned to approach his books with a mix of excitement and dread.
— On the Seawall
Vila-Matas’s bouncy prose is the highlight of this lively ride through a writer’s mind.
— Publishers Weekly
Vila-Matas seems determined to test our faith, crafting tales of surrealist noir
in which virtually anything can happen except happiness.
— The New Yorker
The tremendously touching characters in Enrique Vila-Matas’s novels—who
stumble from one place to the next, not really sure where they are going, but
always on a quest—are so deeply comical on the one hand, and so deeply
poignant on the other, that you just have to give yourself up to it because you’re
in the hands of a master.
— Paul Auster