Enrique Vila-Matas

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Enrique Vilas-Matas
Enrique Vilas-Matas

(1948-03-31) March 31, 1948 (age 72)

Enrique Vila-Matas (born March 31, 1948 in Barcelona) is a Spanish author. He has written several award-winning books that mix genres and have been translated into more than thirty languages.

He is a founding Knight of the Order of Finnegans, a group which meets in Dublin every year to honour James Joyce.

He lives in Barcelona.


Vila-Matas was born at 108, Roger de Llúria street in Barcelona. He studied law and journalism and in 1968 became editor of the film magazine Fotogramas. In 1970 he directed two short films, Todos los jóvenes tristes and Fin de verano. In 1971 he did his military service in Melilla, where in the back room of a military supplies store, he wrote his first book, Mujer en el espejo contemplando el paisaje. On his return to Barcelona, he worked as a film critic for the magazines Bocaccio and Destino. Between 1974 and 1976 he lived in Paris in a garret he rented from the writer Marguerite Duras, where he wrote his second novel, La asesina ilustrada. His third and fourth books, Al sur de los párpados and Nunca voy al cine, appeared in 1980 and 1982.

It was only with the publication of his book Historia abreviada de la literatura portátil that Vila-Matas began to be recognised. He then published the short story collections Una casa para siempre, Suicidios ejemplares and Hijos sin hijos; Recuerdos inventados is an anthology of his best stories. His following works were novels, including Lejos de Veracruz, Extraña forma de vida, El viaje vertical, Bartleby & Co. and Montano's Malady, among others. In 1992 he published a collection of articles and literary essays under the title El viajero más lento, which he followed up in 1995 with El traje de los domingos. Other books containing literary essays include Para acabar entendamos nada (2003, Chile), El viento ligero en Parma (2004, Mexico; re-published in Spain, 2008), and And Pasavento ya no estaba (2008, Argentina). Never Any End to Paris (2003) tells of his Parisian experiences. In 2005 Doctor Pasavento came out, a book about the subject of disappearance and ‘the difficulty of being nobody’. This book closes his meta-literary trilogy on the pathologies of writing (Bartleby, Montano and Pasavento).

In September 2007 Vila-Matas returned to the short story, publishing Exploradores del abismo with Anagrama. In 2008 came Dietario voluble, in which he opts more than ever for a formula that erases the borders between fiction, essay and biography. The book is a literary diary or a kind of guide that allows the reader to glimpse the work's internal structure, and combines experiences of reading and life, personal memory, and an essayist's literary ideas. It was followed by Ella era Hemingway / No soy Auster, two short texts published by Alfabia in the Cuadernos Collection. In 2010 he has returned once more to the novel with Dublinesca, a book that deals with a publisher in crisis, as the author explains: ‘He was a fictional character, with a few things in common with me. By the time I turned him into a publisher he was a mixture of lots of publishers I’ve known. In Paris, for example, some readers think I am writing about Christian Bourgois, my French publisher.’ The book contains part of a dream predicting the future: ‘I had it three years ago in hospital, when I was seriously ill. It was incredibly intense. I dreamed I was in Dublin, a city I have never been to, and that I’d started drinking again and was sitting on the floor in the doorway to a pub, crying very emotionally. I was crying and hugging my wife, regretting having started drinking again. The intensity came from the fact that in the dream, in that embrace with my wife, there was a dense, highly concentrated idea of rebirth. I was recovering in hospital and it was as if I was experiencing real life for the first time. But I was unable to transmit all the intensity… A few months later I traveled to Dublin and couldn’t find the exact spot the dream took place. But I had an amazingly precise memory of it.’

Distinctions and prizes[edit]

Vila-Matas is a knight of the French Legion of Honour, and has an honorary doctorate from the University of the Andes, Venezuela. He has won the Ciudad de Barcelona prize and the Venezuelan Rómulo Gallegos Prize (2001); the Meilleur Livre Etranger prize and the Fernando Aguirre-Libralire prize (2002); the Herralde prize, the Nacional de la Crítica prize, the Medicis-Etranger Prize, the Círculo de Críticos de Chile prize (2003), the Internazionale Ennio Flaiano prize (2006), the Fundación José Manuel Lara prize 2006, and the Real Academia Española prize 2006. In 2007 he won the Elsa Morante literary prize in the category Scrittori del Mondo, which each year honours a great foreign writer. In 2009 he received the Internazionale Mondello prize for the novel Dottor Pasavento, translated into Italian by Feltrinelli. In 2011 he received the Bottari Lattes Grinzane Prize (Italy) the Prix Jean Carriere (France) and the Leteo Award (Spain) for Dublinesque. In 2012 he received the Argital Award Bilbao City for Air of Dylan and the Premio Gregor von Rezzori for the Italian translation of Exploradores del abismo (Esploratori dell’abisso). In 2014, he won the Premio Formentor de las Letras.[1] In 2015, he won the FIL Literary Award in Romance Languages valued at $150,000.[2] In 2016 he received the National Award of Catalonia.

He is a founding member of the Order of Finnegans,[3] which takes its name from a pub in Dalkey, Ireland, although there are those who believe it also comes from James Joyce's last novel, Finnegans Wake. The knights of the Order of Finnegans must venerate James Joyce's novel Ulysses and, if possible, attend Bloomsday each year in Dublin on the sixteenth of June. This is a long day that culminates, at dusk, at the Martello tower in Sandycove (where the novel begins) with participants reading sections from Ulysses and then walking to Finnegans pub in the neighbouring village of Dalkey. The other four founding members are Eduardo Lago, Jordi Soler, Antonio Soler and Malcolm Otero Barral.

His work has so far been translated into thirty languages, including French, English, German, Italian, Russian, Japanese, Arabic, Greek, Serbian, Swedish, Dutch, Hungarian, Hebrew, Turkish, Norwegian, Romanian, Polish, Korean, Catalan, Slovenian, Czech, Bulgarian, Finnish, Danish, Lithuanian, Slovakian, Mandarin, Portuguese and Croatian.

Of his novel Dublinesque, Jacqueline McCarrick of The Times Literary Supplement wrote "...Vila-Matas has created a masterpiece".[4]



  • Mujer en el espejo contemplando el paisaje (Tusquets, 1973).
  • La asesina ilustrada (Tusquets, 1977. Lumen, 2005).
  • Al sur de los párpados (Fundamentos, 1980).
  • Nunca voy al cine (Laertes, 1982).
  • Impostura (Anagrama, 1984).
  • Historia abreviada de la literatura portátil (Anagrama, 1985).
  • Una casa para siempre (Anagrama, 1988).
  • Suicidios ejemplares (Anagrama, 1991).
  • Hijos sin hijos (Anagrama, 1993).
  • Recuerdos inventados. Primera antología personal (Anagrama, 1994).
  • Lejos de Veracruz (Anagrama, 1995).
  • Extraña forma de vida (Anagrama, 1997).
  • El viaje vertical (Anagrama, 1999).
  • Bartleby y compañía (Anagrama, 2000).
  • El mal de Montano (Anagrama, 2002).
  • París no se acaba nunca (Anagrama, 2003).
  • Doctor Pasavento (Anagrama, 2005).
  • Exploradores del abismo (Anagrama, 2007).
  • Dietario voluble (Anagrama, 2008).
  • Dublinesca (Seix Barral, 2010).
  • Perder teorías (Seix Barral, 2010).
  • En un lugar solitario. Narrativa 1973-1984 (Mondadori/Debolsillo, 2011).
  • Chet Baker piensa en su arte. Relatos selectos (Mondadori/Debolsillo, 2011).
  • Aire de Dylan (Seix Barral, 2012).
  • Kassel no invita a la lógica (Seix Barral, 2014).
  • El día señalado [short story] (Nórdica libros, 2015).
  • Marienbad electrique (Bourgois editeur, 2015).
  • Vampire in Love (New Directions, September 2016)
  • Mac y su contratiempo (Seix Barral, 2017)[5]


  • El viajero más lento (Anagrama, 1992. Edición aumentada: El viajero más lento. El arte de no terminar nada, Seix Barral, 2011).
  • El traje de los domingos (Huerga & Fierro, 1995).
  • Para acabar con los números redondos (Pre-Textos, 1997).
  • Desde la ciudad nerviosa (Alfaguara, 2000. Edición aumentada: Alfaguara, 2004).
  • Extrañas notas de laboratorio (Ediciones El otro el mismo/CELARG, 2003. Edición aumentada: Ediciones El otro, el mismo, 2007).
  • Aunque no entendamos nada (J. C. Sáez editor, 2003).
  • El viento ligero en Parma (México, Sexto Piso, 2004. Madrid, Sexto Piso, 2008).
  • Ella era Hemingway / No soy Auster (Ediciones Alfabia, 2008).
  • Y Pasavento ya no estaba (Mansalva, 2008).
  • Una vida absolutamente maravillosa. Ensayos selectos (Mondadori/De Bolsillo, 2011).
  • Fuera de aquí. Conversaciones con André Gabastou (Galaxia Gutenberg, 2013). (Vila-Matas, pile et face, rencontre avec André Gabastou. Paris: Argol éditions, 2010).

Works translated into English[edit]

  • A Brief History of Portable Literature (New Directions, 2015). Translated by Anne McLean.
  • Bartleby & Co. (New Directions, 2004). Translated by Jonathan Dunne.
  • Montano's Malady (New Directions, 2007). Translated by Jonathan Dunne.
  • Never Any End to Paris (New Directions, 2011). Translated by Anne McLean.
  • Dublinesque (New Directions in USA, Harvill in UK, 2012). Translated by Anne McLean and Rosalind Harvey.
  • The Illogic of Kassel (New Directions, 2015). Translated by Anne McLean.
  • Because She Never Asked (New Directions, 2015). Translated by Valerie Miles.
  • Vampire in Love (New Directions, 2016). Translated by Margaret Jull Costa.
  • Mac's Problem (New Directions, 2019). Translated by Margaert Jull Costa and Sophie Hughes.

Further reading[edit]

  • Andres-Suárez, Irene y Ana Casas (eds.) Enrique Vila-Matas. Madrid: Arco/ Libros, 2007 (Col. «Cuadernos de Narrativa»).
  • Heredia, Margarita (ed.) Vila-Matas portátil. Un escritor ante la crítica. Barcelona: Candaya, 2007. [Includes a DVD: Café con Shandy (30’), a talk between Vila-Matas and Juan Villoro].
  • Salas, Lisbeth. Infinitamente serio. Caracas: La cámara escrita, 2009.
  • Pozuelo Yvancos, José María. Figuraciones del yo en la narrativa. Javier Marías y E. Vila-Matas. Valladolid: Universidad de Valladolid, Junta de Castilla y León, 2010. (Cátedra Miguel Delibes).
  • Ríos Baeza, Felipe A. (ed.) Enrique Vila-matas. Los espejos de la ficción. México: Ediciones Eón/Benemérita Universidad Autónoma de Puebla, 2012.
  • Badia, Alain, Anne-Lise Blanc y Mar García (eds.) Geographies du vertige dans l'oeuvre d'Enrique Vila-Matas. Perpignan: Presses universitaires de Perpignan, 2013.
  • Carrera, Guillermo. Crítica portátil. La estructura ausente en Doctor Pasavento (una aproximación narratológica). Puebla: Benemérita Universidad Autónoma de Puebla (Instituto de Ciencias Sociales y Humanidades, 2013.


  1. ^ Winston Manrique Sabogal (28 April 2014). "Vila-Matas gana el Formentor por "renovar los horizontes de la novela"". El Pais (in Spanish). Retrieved May 7, 2014.
  2. ^ "Spain's Vila-Matas to receive Mexican literary prize". Fox News. September 8, 2015. Retrieved September 8, 2015.
  3. ^ http://www.ordendelfinnegans.com/
  4. ^ Jacqueline McCarrick, The Times Literary Supplement July 2012, link Archived 2012-10-22 at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ "Vila-Matas escribe su libro más". La Vanguardia. Retrieved 2017-02-21.

External links[edit]