Dublinesque by Enrique Vila-Matas
Translator -Rosalind Harvey & Anne McLean
Enrique Vila-Matas is probably one of the finest writers in modern spain .He published his first novel in 1973 and is hard to define I ve read a couple of his books and they are hard to put in a genre ,but maybe the metafiction tag works a bit for the books I ve read as they seem to mix characters from other books and take them into a new direction .He was a founding member of the order of Finnegan a society that meets at the Martello tower and walk to the Finnegan pub in the Dalkey are of Dublin so every 16th june they go over and read Ulysses on the day it is set ,so with that in mind we come to his latest translation Dublinesque
Unexpected, inspired tirade from Ricardo when they’re already a few yards inside the cemetery and he says he’s had a sudden revelation and understood everything all at once .He now sees how pertinent the funeral for the Gutenberg age is ,for we mustn’t lose sight of how much Joyce loved word play .
“and I don’t know if you’ve realised that Bloomsday “he says ,”sounds like Doomsday .And the long day Ulysses takes place on is nothing less than that .
this passage struck me as wonderful .
Dublinesque was originally published in Spanish in 2010 ,but here in english two years later and as it happens 90 years after the publication of Ulysses because this book is Villa-Matas ode to that book but maybe also an ode to the written word ,also to Dublin and it many writers .The centre character of Dublinesque is Samuel Riba ,he is a spanish publisher and is turning 60 .It easy to see parallels with Leopold Bloom the main character of Ulysses there are numerous times you see the crossover maybe this is also an honor to Odysseus and Hamlet the two works that partly inspired Joyce’s book as you see the crossover in Ulysses of the books that inspired it .Riba has a dream of going to Dublin and being there on Bloomsday even thou he has never been to Dublin in his life ,this man who feels like Cervantes don Quixote in being the last real publisher a proper editor and paper book lover fighting the battle against the digital word .So he travels to Dublin on bloomsday ,the ghost of his past and Ireland’s past mingle is there a Beckett like figure trying to give him that gem of a book ,a mackintosh figure echo the figure seen in Ulysses by Bloom at the funeral .So rather like Jason in the argonauts he has been hunting a golden fleece in Riba’s case that golden fleece is a book like the ones Beckett and Joyce wrote a writer that breaks the mould and is there to be remembered .So in going to Dublin he maybe buries his dreams like the late Paddy Dignams funeral , as he is a man at a crossroads a career ending a new turn in his life a lament for his broken dreams .He also faces is he drinking too much (is Dublin the best place to face this one does ask ?) also his marriage is wobbly .Know I’m making this feel to formal no it is a wonderful witty book at times with lots of clever ticks to Joyce work that are helped if you’ve read Ulysses but isn’t totally necessary I ve also not read Beckett seen a few of his plays on TV so some of the Beckett reference made me want to read him .
So We have another wonderful piece inspired by James Joyce’s masterpiece Ulysses in my opinion one of the greatest books ever written .So Vila -Matas Like Joseph Beuys who made many drawings about Bloomsday ,Phillip Larkin who’s poem Dublinesque is inspired by the book as well and also shares its title with this novel,Burgess nothing like the sun which Harold bloom noted had parallels with Ulysses .I think you’re getting the idea I loved this book in fact I had to hold my self back from writing about til today as I wanted to publish it on blooms day to honour the book the day and also give a taster of Spanish literature just before Spanish lit month next month .The books cover also honours both the book its self and Ulysses as it uses the same font in yellow that was used in the early hardback editions of Ulysses and it honours the book as it shows a man leaping maybe this is Riba the man leaping between one dream and another or from work to retirement .This book takes the micro of Joyce’s work which covers one day in a book then flips it and takes the macro vision of Riba’s whole life lived in a few days in Dublin .A history in publishing remember the books he’d seen float in front of him ,I m reminded of something I once heard Shane MaGowan says about songs being floating round just needing to be grabbed and written ,maybe novels are the same waiting there to be grabbed .If in the UK you may want catch BBC radio four today which has a day long tribute to Ulysses today .
Have your read Vila-Matas or Joyce ?
What you doing this Bloomsday ?