‘Montevideo’, by Enrique Vila-Matas: the master key to the condemned door

With Enrique Vila-Matas one no longer knows what to expect. And perhaps therein lies the condition of possibility of its literature, just that, which is not little: a condition of possibility. Unfailingly. At the risk and expense of a narrator capable of processing absolutely everything through the sieve of the literary –that is, of the impossibility of living outside the text–, and concerned about the scaffolding of an artistic conscience mutating into a reader obsessed with “writing stories like a madman, even leaving life itself lying in a ditch”. As if that life and that literature were still possible. As if you could write and read at close range.

It would be said that Montevideo It is a novel designed by the negative and displaced drive –by the fact that life is always somewhere else, milan kudera dixit– of a writer who has never existed, but who is real, and by the search for a room of his own that contains a sealed door whose opening depends on a literary quote in the form of a key. A writer absent from himself and in constant flight, impossible to catch, trying hard to concoct theories right and left about the end of literature only to immediately lose them.

What if. how not Here you will also find the reader five of the brands of Vila-Matas style about which he already theorized in his unforgettable lose theories: the constant play with intertextuality, a prosody that touches the lyrical capacities of language with its hands, the search for a utopian narrative, the pre-eminence of a style winning the game over the plot and the unwavering will to build a literary landscape after the moral battle that is already known lost in advance.

That writer says that he arrived in Montevideo at a cul de sac paralyzing that, however, is precisely what chains him to the drive to write “that novel plotted with a tenuous thread of narration and monologues where real memories often take the place of imaginary events”. It could be thought that the work already published and that to come from this narrator consist of a single volume not written (but thought) that is found on the shelves of a non-existent library run by an impure madman, as he wanted Roberto Calasoin some cities that, here and now, are narrated as if they were designing the simulation of a “fulminating tour of the mental circuits that capture and link distant points in space” crossing Paris, Cascais, Montevideo, Reykjavík and Bogotá. Cities populated by a ghostly narrator who shouts to whoever wants to hear him that “any narrative version of a true story is always a form of fiction, since from the moment the world is ordered with words, the nature of the world is modified”.

Montevideo she carries under her arm the sign of confusion and swears that she is concocted by the indestructible passion for storytelling and quote and comment and narrate again and quote again and comment again on what is being narrated and read and commented on in a dead-end loop that surrounds the books of the cast that always accompanies a narrator installed in a recurring obsession: “In In no way am I writing a biography of my style, perhaps some untimely prose, some slight notes on life and lyrics with which I would be seeking to find out who I really am and who is my favorite writer”: Vila-Matas? Kafka, Joyce, Sterne, Gombrowicz, Rimbaud, Walser, Borges, Beckett, Perec, Celan, Pessoa, Sciascia, Tabucchi, Pitol, Piglia, Chejfec, Roussel, Barthes, Blanchot?


thanks to one writing halfway between narrative and essaythe voice of Montevideo combines life with literature and is versed in “the Eternal Doubt”, in “the Regime of Indecision”, in the logic of “ambiguity” and in the “enigma” trying to dismantle history and oppose it to narration five o’clock literature trends that obsess him: that of those who “have nothing to tell”, that of those who “deliberately tell nothing”, that of those who “do not tell everything”, that of those who “hope that one day God will tell everything, including why it is so imperfect” and, finally, that of those who “have surrendered to the power of technology that seems to be transcribing and recording everything and, therefore, making the writing profession expendable”. For each of the five cities, a trend, and in each trend, the impossible search for a city.

the reader of Vila-Matas You’ll recognize a family resemblance—and Dylan’s—in this book. yes in that novel Hamlet it was the discursive framework that linked digressions chained to each other as the mark of a narrative tone that is already unmistakable and that prevents the narrative voice –and the reader– from capturing the center of the plot, in this Julio Cortazar and his story the doomed door of game over. In room 205 of the Hotel Cervantes in Montevideo (which exists and is real) is where the journey of no return is outlined and the place where the narrator will find an exit in the form of an empty hole like Alicia’s, the unfathomable door that will allow him to go one step further, as and as insistently claimed Maurice Blanchot: to disappear in order to live and, above all, to be able to read and write, in a gesture that is repeated with relish in the poetics of the author.

In room 346 of the Hotel Albergo Romein Turin, Cesar Pavese definitely crossed the other side of the door; in the 205 of the Hotel Cervantes the circumstances surrounding the narrator’s last wish become palpable: to find the master key to the doomed door of literature and then risk total and definitive disappearance to make of that gesture the story of a search turned into a Montevidean party with the avant-garde look that Vila-Matas had outlined in Chet Baker thinks about his art and forecast in explorers of the abyss through one of the poems of Roberto Juarroz: “Sometimes it seems/ that we are in the center of the party./ However/ in the center of the party there is no one/ in the center of the party is the void/ but in the center of the void there is another party”.

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