For Riba, then, to live is to dream is to write is to read. For better or worse, he can’t detach these terms from each other. This is why his inner life, and his narrative voice, consist of ‘an accumulation of literary quotations,’ an intertextual tissue where countless writers – Larkin, Gracq, Auster, almost anyone – coexist in a ‘tangled mess,’ their words and his rendered inextricable. Yet while Dublinesque is densely referential, it is emphatically not a ‘postmodern’ novel. Its practices of collage and pastiche don’t purport to connect to any collective condition. Instead, and more enigmatically, literature is a private language through which Riba relates to himself. His references rely on an associative freight accrued for him alone. For him, literature is wholly embedded in lived experience; his allusions are only intelligible in terms of his habitus. So, although the book implies infinite literary linkages, this is a bounded infinity, fully enclosed – less like an intertext than an inexplicable dream.
A review of Dublinesque, the upcoming Enrique Vila-Matas release from New Directions. [via ReadySteadyBook]