Having the Last Laugh
‘Infinity is no big deal, my friend; it’s a matter of writing. The universe only exists on paper,’ said Paul Valéry. I first found this ironic phrase as the epigraph to Historia abreviada de la literatura portátil (1985), or A Concise History of Portable Literature, by the Catalan author Enrique Vila-Matas. Vila-Matas is a brilliantly playful writer, an ironist himself, who toys with the parameters between reality and fiction and most usually elides them. His narrators are generally men a little like Vila-Matas himself; his novels discuss real and unreal authors with equal earnestness and the overall effect is both funny and poignant. For are we all not slightly unreal, or on the cusp of unreality, at any given moment, or if we feel fairly real this morning then might we not be unreal tomorrow, or in the near future?