The award-winning novelist brings his trademark humour and lightly worn intelligence to the contemporary art world
A puzzling phone call shatters a writer’s routine. An enigmatic female voice extends an invitation to take part in Documenta, the legendary contemporary art exhibition held every five years in Kassel, Germany. The writer’s mission will be to transform himself into a living art installation, by sitting down to write every morning in a Chinese restaurant on the outskirts of town.
Once in Kassel, the writer is surprised to find himself overcome by good cheer. As he strolls through the city, spurred on by his spontaneous, quirky response to art, he begins to make sense of the wonders that surround him.
'A writer who has no equal in the contemporary landscape of the Spanish novel'
'Vila-Matas's work made a tremendous impression on me'
“One of the most richly allusive novels you’re likely to encounter... [a] thrillingly imaginative exploration of creativity”
Alex Clark, Observer
“An adventure novel of ideas… Rollicking, a passionate defense of literature as an essential element of public life and, more generally, of art in a time of numbers – when the market establishes not just the price but the value of necessary things like art and thought. “Life is serious, art is joyful,” he says, and that sense of joy carries over to Mr Vila-Matas’ novel. He strikes a difficult balance between being philosophical and being lighthearted and entertaining – it’s what gives his writing sophistication and panache”
New York Times
“A light-hearted novel about art and the avant-garde… Showing us a part of the art world that he finds a bit preposterous, but also charming, and even important [Vila-Matas] chooses humour in a way that allows him to have big ideas while relentlessly making fun of them”
“Like W.G. Sebald, Geoff Dyer and, more recently, writers such as Rachel Cusk, Teju Cole and Ben Lerner, Vila-Matas manages to create a productive uncertainty in the reader’s mind through his disorientating effects... One of the distinct pleasures of Vila-Matas’ books is that they function as little libraries stuffed with other authors’ works… His novels now are less like stories than like experiences of a particular atmosphere. [The Illogic of Kassel] asserts its own strange rhythm and stands as a valuable addition to Vila-Matas’ work”
“This summer I plan to relax with two short works by the charmingly playful, lucidly destructive Spanish novelist, Enrique Vila-Matas... Truth, fiction, history, memoir: these are always charmingly unstable categories in Vila-Matas’s writing”
Adam Thirlwell, TLS
“[A] beguiling, rebellious sojourn into the underground soul of the avant-garde”
New York Times
“A blend of memoir, fiction and a sharp observation of human behavior… A warm and engaging read, littered with gentle humour.”
Sara Garland, Nudge