Daily Archives: March 24, 2020

Mac’s Problem by Enrique Vila-Matas. Translated from the Spanish by Margaret Jull Costa and Sophie Hughes.

Mac's Problem by Enrique Vila-MatasTitle: Mac’s Problem
Author: Enrique Vila-Matas
Translated from the Spanish by Margaret Jull Costa and Sophie Hughes
Publisher: New Directions Publishing
ISBN: 978-0811227322
Genre: Literary Fiction, Translation
Pages: 224
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4/5

This book was a treat. At almost every level – the plot, writing, characters, pacing of the novel, and the fact that a master such as Vila-Matas has written it, only adds to its wonder. The idea of life imitating art and vice-versa has always been a personal favourite, and then to find one of the few novels whose premise is seeped in it is a thing of joy to read and contemplate about.

At the heart of this novel is Mac, who is unemployed and dependent on his wife’s earnings. Being an avid reader and beyond, he decides to maintain a diary at the age of sixty. His wife who is dyslexic thinks he is wasting his time. A chance encounter with a neighbour – a successful author of a collection of stories, Mac decides that he will improvise his neighbour’s stories, which are in turn narrated by a ventriloquist who has lost the knack of speaking in different voices. The book then takes a strange turn and only gets stranger as you go along, with art imitating life or vice-versa.

Mac’s Problem is a book that had me in from the first page. Again, it is not an easy read, but there is something to it – the concept of a diary, and then someone’s short stories, and how they become personal after a while, and the paranoia that takes over. Vila-Matas’ writing is full of literary references, and stellar prose if anything. It is also quite funny in a lot of places – I am sure that was intentional.

The book does drag and something about it being two-dimensional worked so much for me. It takes time to get to the actual plot perhaps but if you persist, you will be massively rewarded in the end. A must-read if you ask me.

The Other Name: Septology I-II by Jon Fosse. Translated from the Norwegian by Damion Searls.

The Other Name - Septology I-II by Jon Fosse

Title: The Other Name: Septology I-II
Author: Jon Fosse
Translated from the Norwegian by Damion Searls
Publisher: Fitzcarraldo Editions
ISBN: 978-1910695913
Genre: Literary Fiction, Translations
Pages: 340
Rating: 5/5

This time the International Booker 2020 longlist has outdone itself. With almost every book I have read so far from the list (barring two), I have enjoyed the rest. Some more. Some less. Enjoyed nonetheless. One such book is this one. The Other Name: Septology I-II is a strange read (like most that I have read this month). It is so much more than what it appears to be. It is not easy to comprehend but please do not let that deter you from reading this lovely novel about an artist, Asle, struggling with his faith. On the other hand, it is also about another artist named Asle, living not very far, almost sharing the same life.

I love experimental literature. I love literature that pushes the boundaries of my limited intelligence and makes me speculate, think, and challenge what I read. The Other Name managed to do that and more. There are no breaks in sentences. You do not know if one character is speaking or someone else is. And despite all of this, The Other Name makes for great reading.

The concept of a doppelgänger has always fascinated me. This book with its many layers, and the intellectual puzzle it presents to readers is complex no doubt, but there is a layer of simplicity to that as well. The Other Name speaks of so many things – faith, love, loneliness, identity, memory, and above all what art is all about. I think these are the major themes in a sense of this year’s International Booker long-list. I am not complaining at all. Such themes work the best for me as a reader.

Fosse doesn’t try too hard to connect with the reader. The prose is there. It is almost a take it or leave it kind of situation. There is a lack of plot in a sense that the semblance of a plot meanders and continues to right till the end of the book, but even then the book leaves you in a trance every time you read portions from it.