cover image Never Any End to Paris

Never Any End to Paris

Enrique Vila-Matas, trans. from the Spanish by Anne McLean. New Directions, $15.95 trade paper (208p) ISBN 978-0-8112-1813-9

This hilarious and winning send-up to an author's star-struck youth in Paris takes the form of a purported lecture, yet reads more like a memoir in the capable hands of Spanish novelist Vila-Matas. The playfully ironic narrator, born in Barcelona in1948, comes of age during the mid-1970s, when he lived for two years in Paris trying to write his first novel and imitated the impoverished, supposedly happy, time of his idol, Ernest Hemingway (it's from Hemingway's memoir, A Movable Feast, that the author takes his title). Yet the narrator at that time of his youth was poor and unhappy. He rents a garret from legendary French novelist Marguerite Duras, who takes pity on the novice writer, offering bewildering and opaque advice. The narrator nabs invitations to exclusive parties where he meets Isabel Adjani before she is famous, frequents famous has-been cafes like Caf%C3%A9 Flore, and generally believes that "living in despair was very elegant." Except that it wasn't. It did, however, give rise to a lifelong pursuit of irony, which he achieves beautifully by poking gentle fun at the young man he was, quoting Hemingway copiously, and essentially depicting the quivering aims of a fledgling writer. (May)