A man's obsession with literature leads him to see the world through the eyes of fiction
Literature can be contagious; it can also be our only means of salvation. That at least is the experience of Montano, the 'unreliable narrator' of Enrique Vila-Matas' prize-winning novel, a man and a writer who is so obsessed with the books of certain celebrated contemporaries that he is unable to put pen to paper or utter a word without summoning up their work or their lives, and whose malady is that he finds it impossible to distinguish between real life and fictional reality. Part picaresque novel, part intimate diary, part memoir, part philosophical musings, Vila-Matas has created a labyrinth in which writers as various as Cervantes, Sterne, Kafka, Musil, Perec, Bolaño, Coetzee, Sebald and Magris cross endlessly surprising paths, while his protagonist leads the reader on an unsettling journey from European cities such as Nantes, Barcelona, Lisbon, Prague and Budapest to the Azores and the Chilean port of Valparaíso.
Yet for all the author's dazzling literary pyrotechnics, this is a novel that is always witty and accessible.