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The Loss Library and Other Unfinished Stories
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The Loss Library and Other Unfinished Stories

4.11  ·  Rating Details ·  54 Ratings  ·  19 Reviews
 “Not writing is always a relief and sometimes a pleasure. Writing about what cannot be written, by contrast, is the devil’s own job.”In this unusual text, a blend of essay, fiction, and literary genealogy, South African novelist Ivan Vladislavic explores the problems and potentials of the fictions he could not bring himself to write. Drawing from his notebooks of the past ...more
Hardcover, 121 pages
Published February 15th 2012 by Seagull Books (first published January 1st 2011)
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Feb 09, 2012 Stephen rated it it was amazing
At every author reading, invariably somebody asks where inspiration comes from, which is an interesting question more to see the author’s reaction (ranging anywhere from humorous contempt to frustrated anger. I’ve heard stories of people like David Foster Wallace chastising the asker and walking off the stage) than to hear any sort of answer. It’s considered by many to be to be an impossible answer, and perhaps most authors are satisfied to be authors without having to be neurologists as well. ...more
Aug 13, 2012 Eoin rated it really liked it
Shelves: fictions, essay, memoir
I suspect this might be the most post-modern book I have read. It claims to be a collection of unfinished stories with explanatory essays for each, but I'm pretty sure it's a novella whose protagonist is Ivan Vladislavic. Basically, it's a writer writing about not writing, while demonstrating such proficiency that the premise (that Vladislavic did not or could not finish the stories) becomes unsupportable. This is a book that unwrites itself. Worth it for any story, the Robert Walser piece ...more
David Klompas
Aug 15, 2016 David Klompas rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anybody interested in how a writer writes.
Ivan Vladislavic's collection of unfinished stories is at first interesting as a novelty item - some essays that reflect on unfinished stories in a unique way. But upon reading through these rich essays, the novelty fades away and it becomes clear that Vladislavic had grander intentions in mind when he composed this book.

Composition is indeed an apt term for Vladislavic's musings, for they are not merely essays which describe a process. They are rather a collection of prose, pieces interspersed
Feb 24, 2015 Tonymess rated it really liked it
In recent weeks I have reviewed a couple of books by Jacques Poulin which celebrate the written word, both novels having the protagonist as a writer or translator and working in a remote location, struggling with writer’s block or simply coming to terms with the written word. I have also reviewed “Dear Reader” by Paul Fournel, lamenting the death of publishing and the interference of editors. Another being “The Ingenious Gentleman and Poet Federico Garcia Lorca Ascends to Hell” by Carlos Rojas ...more
Blaize Kaye
Jan 23, 2016 Blaize Kaye rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 35
Ivan Vladislavic's "The Loss Library and other unfinished stories" is ostensibly a collection of essays or meditations or commentaries on stories he has either lost, never started, or never finished.

How then do we explain "The Loss Library", a short story that sits at the heart of the collection without commentary?
Is it also unfinished? The title of the book suggests it might be.
But the story seems whole, it seems finished.

Perhaps we're invoking the wrong sense of "unfinished", perhaps Vladisla
Jan 14, 2015 Tiah added it
- I want to write a story about the last days of a writer, but I am preoccupied with hats. . . . Of all the things people wear, nothing is more expressive of character than a hat, perhaps because it is so close to the wearer's face, or even to his mind. This dead man's hat is small, light and jaunty, with an impish tilt in the brim. It makes the random ending of his life seem more outrageous. -

- In the end, real people are nearly harder to like than fictional characters. Is it fair to weave fic
Oct 28, 2012 Lillian rated it really liked it
What do writers do with their unfinished stories, novels and essays?
This extraordinary collection of stories by South African novelist Ivan Vladuskavic is an exploration of unsettled accounts of writing; stories begun and abandoned and others that ultimately ended life as a line or two in a notebook. There are eleven in all of what the author calls case studies taken from his notebooks of the past 20 years. Along the way he pays homage to other writers such as Walser, Perec, Sterne, and DeLillo.
Jun 17, 2013 Liam rated it it was amazing
Probably 4.5, but to hell. Contextually (smug smiles all around) I read this thing right after racing through Sjón's dark and lovely 'Blue Fox' and 'The Whispering Muse,' so was carrying a fair amount of momentum which Vladislavic failed to trip up; it's the kind of text you can buy into, and commit to, fairly easily. Smoothness doesn't mean facile-ness; the thoughts go down easily, but they're good, and reasoned, and could be mulled over indefinitely. Intertexts all over the place, which means ...more
Oct 08, 2013 Leif rated it really liked it
A beguiling series of lost and near-begun stories, fictions, pieces of life. Vladislavic is as ever effortless in his creation of striking images and catching tales, and as ever honest with his own sense of pride and self-effacement. Stand out stories include the nearly-fledged "The Loss Library", the wonderfully whimsical tale of inadvertent creation "Mouse Drawing", and the whimsically melancholic "Dictionary Birds". As Vladislavic and other reviewers have noted, these fragments work better in ...more
Katy Derbyshire
Feb 26, 2013 Katy Derbyshire rated it it was amazing
What fun. Stories about lost stories, grouped around a story about a library of lost books. I enjoyed them a great deal and then even more when I stopped taking them at face value. Wouldn't it be delightful if the premise were all a deceit? If Vladislavic hadn't ever started his abandoned fragments but made these up too, and wrote stories around them? I think I half-believed that by the end, when the final piece echoed the first in its description of a photograph of a dead body.

All accompanied b
Sep 18, 2013 Anne rated it really liked it
Ron Slate's written
a good article on The Loss Library

"The Loss Library is a beautifully made book. Illustrations by Sunandini Bannerjee are tipped into the opening pages of chapters – their distortions, suggestions and incompletions complement the author’s intent and style. There is a sly slightness to the book, an airiness that inspires wonder about the elusive narratives all around us."
The Loss Library is published by the University of Chicago Press and by Umuzi, Randomstruik in South Africa
Apr 26, 2013 Monster rated it liked it
This is definitely a booknerd's book. When I told someone what it was "about," they asked, "How do you even publish something like that?!"

Regardless of the answer, I'm happy someone did. This book feels like being in a modern art museum where half-formed Kurosawan dreams about literary compulsion and bibliophilia line the walls. I didn't really understand the intention of the book until it was over and my rating likely reflects the continual uncertainty that accompanied my read of this book. I r
JM Schreiber
Mar 19, 2016 JM Schreiber rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Beautifully presented, this unassuming little book contains wry observations and great wisdom about the mysterious process of literary inspiration and the ways it can get lost or waylaid. Vladislavić is a gifted writer and to spend time with him in this relaxed format is great gift. For my detailed review, please see:
Jun 09, 2012 Noélle rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jun 20, 2012 Poupeh added it
stories about stories that were not written, stories of failed attempts that are failing and yet succeeding.
Mar 06, 2013 Fela rated it liked it
the only complete story in the book, "the loss library" is a masterpiece.

a very good book of the writer discussing his unfinished work and inspirations behind them.
José Toledo
Sep 08, 2015 José Toledo rated it it was ok
All of us who write have been through this, it's a well-worn path. So an entire book dedicated to musing about fiction you could not bring yourself to write is, well ... boring.
Paige Nick
Dec 31, 2011 Paige Nick rated it liked it
Incredible. Loved it, loved it, loved it.
A book that is as much about the process of writing as it is about the lost stories.
Now really want to read his book/story The Book Lover.
Kinosfronimos rated it really liked it
Aug 09, 2016
Trevor Bertrand
Trevor Bertrand rated it it was amazing
Sep 19, 2014
Cottoncore rated it it was amazing
May 10, 2013
Aug 07, 2012 Derek rated it liked it
some of my thoughts on it embedded here:
Louis rated it really liked it
Jan 03, 2013
Vivek Gopal
Vivek Gopal rated it it was amazing
Apr 08, 2014
Drew rated it liked it
Jan 04, 2016
Aristotle Johns
Aristotle Johns rated it it was ok
Apr 24, 2015
Clea rated it it was amazing
Apr 27, 2016
Alan Muller
Alan Muller rated it it was amazing
Aug 09, 2016
Astrid rated it really liked it
Nov 03, 2016
Heleen rated it really liked it
Jan 07, 2013
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Ivan Vladislavić was born in Pretoria in 1957 and lives in Johannesburg, where he works as a writer and editor. His books include the novels "The Restless Supermarket", "The Exploded View" and "Double Negative", and a compendium of short stories titled "Flashback Hotel". In 2006, he published "Portrait with Keys", a sequence of documentary texts on Johannesburg. He has edited books on architecture ...more
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“There are no big stories left, just paths through the clutter and the inevitable soft landing.” 2 likes
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