Reading Enrique Vila-Matas’s Bartleby & Co. as a kind of warm-up to constructing my orals lists. It’s a hybrid text – a series of reflections on (mostly?) real “writers of No” within a fictional frame. Writers of No, writers that withdraw from writing or never write anything at all, wrench language open by refusing to use it. Part of the work of the writer of No is to puncture the boundary between working and not working, yet almost all of the writers of No Vila-Matas lists experience their not-writing as a zone of indetermination, an uncomfortable and permanent caesura in life’s rhythm. Vila-Matas’s narrator, of course, being a writer of No until he stirs and begins to write his book.
I find myself envious of both Vila-Matas’s book and the writers he chronicles, secret practitioners of conceptual art avant la lettre.