cover image Mac’s Problem

Mac’s Problem

Enrique Vila-Matas, trans. from the Spanish by Margaret Jull Costa and Sophie Hughes. New Directions, $16.95 trade paper (256p) ISBN 978-0-8112-2732-2

In this impressive novel, Vila-Matas (Bartleby & Co.) endearingly chronicles the blundering writing exploits of Mac, a 60-something Barcelona man at the end of his career. Reeling from his failure in his family’s construction company, Mac avoids contemplating his financial status and instead embarks on a writing project. Initially, Mac endeavors to write a memoir, but after a conversation with his well-known neighbor, the writer Andrea Sanchez, Mac decides to secretly rewrite Sanchez’s story collection and address its problems (as perceived by Sanchez). As he begins writing, it becomes clear that the project highlights the displacement Mac feels within his own family, with his children grown and his wife, Carmen, occupied with her own company. As Mac reads Sanchez’s work, he finds a story that he is sure was written years ago about Carmen. That discovery draws him into a growing state of consuming suspicion that Carmen and Sanchez are involved, which undermines his daily life as he obsessively tries to learn more about Sanchez, interrogates people close to him, begins living out the stories, and starts to have trouble distinguishing reality from fiction. Vila-Matas’s bouncy prose is the highlight of this lively ride through a writer’s mind. He winningly depicts a man embroiled in regret and the places that it takes him. [em](Apr.) [/em]