Book 949 Enrique Vilas-Matas – Bartleby & Co.

Apologies for the size of the pic – it was all I could find!

Talent is a weird thing. Sometimes it’s very obvious that a person is talented as their works are a sort of proof, but what about those people who were talented but never wrote anything down or created one sole piece of work and yet were still recognised for it?

Enrique Vila-Matas examines this in the book Bartleby & Co.  For those who don’t know Bartleby, who was created by Herman Melville, is the public servant who calmly refused to carry out any of the tasks that his boss assigned him despite this quiet anarchy Bartleby still dedicates his life to staying in his office.  Vilas-Matas (under an alter ego who is bored with his office job) gives us a list of eighty-six writers, philosophers, painters and poets who followed the philosophy of the no and their reasons for giving up writing are quite bizarre suicide, lack of ideas a surplus of ideas, death of an influential relative each ‘excuse’ gets more weirder than the last,. my personal favourite being Paranoid Perez who would relay his ideas to friends only to find out a few months later that his rival Jose Saramago would publish a book based on Perez’s initial idea!

There quite a few known people as well Socrates, Salinger, Pynchon (although this focuses more on his reclusive rather than his body of work) Kafka, Rimbaud and each story is both fascinating and grotesquely humorous. It also proves that talent and fame has many forms and that silence is truly more powerful than speech itself.