Britain's first book blogger (November 2000)

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Our desperate friend

The Editor's Corner at The Book Depository makes a good point about the recent survey that found "almost 10% of Britons aspire to being an author". No, Mr Ed points out, most of that 10% want to be JK Rowling, which is something else.

Even so, many do still wish to become authors, even if it means working "very hard for very little recognition and for precious little money". Creation is its own reward (apparently). With this fresh in mind, I began to read Enrique Vila-Matas' novel Montano's Malady (I refuse to link to the English edition and its cretinously truncated title). It's about a man who is literature-sick. Every situation in his life is immediately related to a memory of literature. Someone, he decides, looks like Robert Walser, which reminds him of that WG Sebald said Robert Walser looked like his grandfather and died in the same way, walking in the mountains, and so on. (Vila-Matas reminds me, incidentally, of a comic WG Sebald, if you can imagine such a thing). The narrator introduces his son, Montano, whose malady is the inability to write any further. The struggle with literature-sickness and Montano's Malady maintains the book's energy and, as Three Per Cent's review says, is also a sort of manifesto for a renewal of literature against its enemies (aka "Pico's moles").

The great thing about the novel is that it's both very light on the surface yet also profound, moving and inspiring. No way is it "heavy stuff" as one mooing reviewer claimed. It's an ideal, unputdownable, thumping-good-read for that ambitious 10%. They can see their situation portrayed in a novel. Not being able to go on is, after all, a vital part of life.
I'm going to go to the kitchen to have a yogurt; I shall be accompanied by the desperate friend who always goes with me, that friend who is myself and who, so as not to fall into the clutches of cursed despair, writes this diary, this story of a soul trying to save itself by helping the survival of literature, this story of a soul no sooner strong and steady than it succumbs to depression, in order then, laboriously, to get back on its feet, to readjust through work and intelligence, constantly battling with Pico's moles.

1 comment:

  1. Who knows, if a writing prize with a reliable judging panel ever gets going, Montano's Malady may make a longlist yet! ;)

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