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Bartleby & Co.

4.01  ·  Rating Details  ·  2,026 Ratings  ·  186 Reviews
In Bartleby & Co., an enormously enjoyable novel, Enrique Vila-Matas tackles the theme of silence in literature: the writers and non-writers who, like the scrivener Bartleby of the Herman Melville story, in answer to any question or demand, replies: "I would prefer not to." Addressing such "artists of refusal" as Robert Walser, Robert Musil, Arthur Rimbaud, Marcel Duch ...more
Paperback, 178 pages
Published May 23rd 2007 by New Directions (first published 2000)
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The Rings of Saturn by W.G. SebaldLabyrinths by Jorge Luis BorgesLast Evenings on Earth by Roberto BolañoJourney to the End of the Night by Louis-Ferdinand CélineThe Hour of the Star by Clarice Lispector
Best New Directions Books
18th out of 108 books — 114 voters
Butcher's Crossing by John Edward WilliamsMoby-Dick; or, The Whale by Herman MelvilleStoner by John Edward Williams2666 by Roberto BolañoBlood Meridian, or the Evening Redness in the West by Cormac McCarthy
Hip Opinions
50th out of 314 books — 36 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Mike Puma
Feb 23, 2012 Mike Puma rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: the few
Recommended to Mike by: Bolaño, et al.

5 stars for the idea. 5 stars for the execution. 5 stars for the lasting consideration that will haunt my reading. 5 stars for the ones many of you won’t (and, perhaps, shouldn’t) give it yourself.

Before you read this volume, if you should choose to, read or re-read Bartleby, the Scrivener, unless, of course, you prefer not to.

For me, many roads lead toward or away from Roberto Bolaño. E V-M is one of the landmarks on those roads. Of Bartleby & Co. Bolaño has written (in Between Parentheses:

Jan 06, 2014 Brian rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Brian by: Proustitute
Take a minute and think about all of the books that you will read in your life. Imagine a large room, books stacked floor to ceiling - everything you've read. Now imagine outside of that room all of the books that you will never read - they line the halls, choke the doorway and cascade down the front steps to a sea of tomes that looks endless down the street. As a reader, those books are as good as having never been writ. You can know of them, but without sampling between the covers you can't re ...more
K.D. Absolutely
May 16, 2012 K.D. Absolutely rated it really liked it
Recommended to K.D. by: 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die (2006-2010)
My friend is telling me how innovative is Junot Diaz's 2007 book: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao because it uses too many footnotes and they are all interesting footnotes and even more interesting than the book's main story.

I agree. But I would like him to wait and read this 2000 first published book by a Spanish author, Enrique Vila-Matas, Bartleby & Co. Why?

Because it is all footnotes!

This is a book of footnotes so there are no chapter numbers or headers but only numbers at the begi
Paul Bryant

According to Enrique Vila-Matas there's a Literature of the No which doesn't exist but is still very important. Well, there's also a Reviewer of the No and it's me, and I say


to this maundering waffly postmodern excuse. In order to say YES to this book you need to enjoy

a) many many many references to writers you will never have heard of unless you are a student of second-division European literature. Do these names show up on your radar?

Bobi Bazlen
Marcel Schwob
Gustav Janouch
Clement Cadou
Riku Sayuj
Apr 22, 2013 Riku Sayuj rated it liked it
Any individual part of this book would have merited five stars, but as a whole I can only give three. I am sure it would have been much more intellectual if I were well read enough to sift amusing fact from playful fiction. As such, it was great fun, but pointless fun.
Feb 27, 2012 Lee rated it really liked it
Footnotes to a book that doesn't exist about writers who stopped writing ("those in the No") by a solitudinous Spanish hunchback. Clear, affectationless prose. A hybrid of biography, pseudobiography, pseudoautobiography, review, invention, quotation, invented quotation, and quick sad tales centerlessly centered on Rimbaud, Duchamp, Kafka, Beckett, Melville, Hawthorne, Salinger, Saramago, Cervantes, Henry Roth, and dozens of other "writers of the No," whether real or imagined. A unique yet totall ...more
Jun 29, 2015 Cosimo rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Il fondo delle navi

"Scrivere è anche non parlare. E' tacere. E' urlare senza emettere suoni".
Marguerite Duras

La cosa più ragionevole dopo aver letto Bartleby e Compagnia di Enrique Vila Matas sarebbe il silenzio, una rinuncia a scrivere che ne accolga la vocazione al negativo e ne accetti l'inafferrabile invito a ascoltare tacitamente un universo letterario indescrivibile e inesauribile. Scritte come note a un testo fantasma, le storie di questo ricercato viandante del possibile letterario sono
May 27, 2015 Fionnuala rated it it was amazing
reviewed in March 2011
A fine blend of 30% fact, 30% fiction, 30% humour plus a good dose of genius
I enjoyed this immensely, especially not knowing half the time which characters were real and which were fictional. However I didn't find any reference to the fictional writer, Alejandro Bevilacqua from Alberto Manguel's All Men Are Liars in this intriguing book by Enrique Vila-Matas about writers who refuse to write. Manguel claimed that Bevilacqua was mentioned in this book. Another elaborate hoax
Feb 28, 2012 Drew rated it liked it
I can't really think about this book without comparing it to Markson's Vanishing Point. They're both collections of little tidbits about authors, although Vila-Matas' tidbits all fall under the theme of "literature of the No": masterpieces left unwritten, epic cases of writer's block, writerly suicides, literature that constitutes denial of the significance of literature.

Bartleby and Co. mostly fails for me, though, because Vanishing Point's anecdotes tell a real story, albeit a hidden one. You
Hay que ser muy bartleby para apreciar estas 86 notas sin texto, o notas a pie de página que comentan un texto invisible. Por ellas desfilan los principales escritores del No, aquellos que en un momento dado decidieron no escribir una sola línea más: Melville (el patriarca del movimiento), Walser, Rulfo, Rimbaud, Hawthorne, Guy de Maupassant, Salinger, Kafka, Gracq, Felisberto Hernández... Si este libro me ha gustado tanto será que soy más bartleby de lo que creía.
MJ Nicholls
Aug 26, 2014 MJ Nicholls rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to MJ by: Mike Puma
As usual, Mike Puma is right and Paul Bryant is wrong. The Spanish David Markson. All wrapped up in books. For lovers of anti-novels and trivia.
Apr 25, 2016 Teresa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Como, por vezes, vivemos quase toda a vida enganados!
Eu estava tão convicta de que só gostava de ler romances...

Comprei este livro (como compro muitos outros) sem me preocupar em saber de que tratava, apenas motivada pelas "estrelas" do Goodreads, particularmente as de alguns amigos, cujas leituras e opiniões sigo atentamente. É por experiências e surpresas como esta, que me enriquecem e me proporcionam momentos de grande prazer, que sou dependente desta rede social e bendigo o dia em que nela m
Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly
From Herman Melville's "Bartleby"--the scrivener who says NO for no visible reason ("I prefer not to," was his mantra of refusal)--the Spanish writer Enrique Vila-Matas conceived of a "theme of silence" in literature, tackling writers and artists (like Marcel Duchamp who gave up painting for chess) who preferred not to continue with their writing or art. Vila-Matas--displaying an extensive reading and research of his subject matter--paid homage here to what he coined the "Writers of the No."

If y
Vit Babenco
Aug 17, 2015 Vit Babenco rated it it was amazing
“These phantom books, invisible texts, are the ones that knock at our door one day and, when we go to receive them, for what is often a trivial reason, they disappear; we open the door and they are no longer there, they have gone.”
Take an exhaustive excursion to a library of unwritten masterpieces, to a cemetery of buried ambitions, dead hopes and ruined aspirations and Enrique Vila-Matas will be your scholarly and knowledgeable guide.
“Everything changes except God. ‘In six months even death cha
Eddie Watkins
Sep 30, 2014 Eddie Watkins rated it really liked it
Shelves: spanish-fiction
Was reminded of this after posting a portrait of my office loser persona yesterday. The narrator is a hunchbacked loser who takes a leave from work to write a book, but is blocked, but in his blockage writes a book in the form of footnotes about authors or authors' characters throughout history who either refused to write, or couldn't write due to blockage, or who wrote but refused to reveal much of themselves, or who simply preferred silence or to remain non-entities, etc. What he calls "Writer ...more
E' incredibile. Ho appena attribuito 5 stelle a un libro che, praticamente, mi confina nel ruolo della cretina integrale. Se ne deduce che dev'essere proprio vero.


PS: Appena mi passa la "ridarella", metto assieme un commento meno cretino. Nell'ambito delle mie possibilità di "cretina", ovviamente. :-D
Comunque, ve lo consiglio sin d'ora. E' davvero notevole.


Ok, la “ridarella” mi è passata. :-)

Questo libro non è proprio un romanzo, benché lo sia.
Non è neanche proprio un saggio, ma è an
Camille Stein
Sep 07, 2013 Camille Stein rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
'Hoy en día, ya sólo nos cabe repetir. Sólo nos quedan unos pocos detalles ínfimos todavía inexplorados. Sólo le queda al hombre actual la tarea más ingrata y menos brillante, la de llenar los huecos con una algarabía de detalles.'
(Marcel Maniere - 'Infierno perfumado')

Bartleby o cómo traducir las pulsiones de creatividad y su efervescencia heterogénea de emociones prescindiendo del ámbito estricto del lenguaje.

¿Es acaso la literatura la inútil persecución de una inmortalidad imposible, un
Feb 11, 2013 Jonfaith rated it liked it
There is a nihilist edge to this taxonomy, one which is evident and continues to persist. I find its serial interrogation necessary but not exactly fulfilling. That may be the point, it is likely the point. We can own our repetitions and accept our failing memories. We elect to refrain and endure likewise. Melville and Walser can offer tacit assistance. We only need dispose ourselves accordingly.
Dec 29, 2014 Sawsan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
بطل هذه الرواية كاتب, كتب رواية واحدة وتوقف عن الكتابة لمدة 25 سنة
يحاول العودة للكتابة مرة أخرى بكتابة هذه الملاحظات أو اليوميات, موضوع هذه الملاحظات هو كُتاب أدب ال لا و( لا) معناها هنا لا للكتابة
أي الكُتاب الذين توقفوا عن فعل الكتابة ويسميهم باسم بارتلبي - شخصية من رواية للكاتب هرمان ملفيل- وهو شخص انعزالي رافض للعالم
عن الكُتاب والمبدعين الذين قرروا الانعزال ورفضوا الاستمرار بالكتابة لأسباب واضحة وأخرى غير واضحة وغير مفهومة
فقدان الرغبة, صعوبة الوصول للأفكار, الإحساس باللاجدوى, وغيرها.بحث في
Laura Leaney
Jun 17, 2010 Laura Leaney rated it really liked it
I picked this up because I have such great affection for Melville's "Bartleby, the Scrivener," the Wall Street scribe who ultimately preferred "not to" write. I love the premise of this anti-book. The piece is a collection of footnotes, written by a reclusive hunchback who is unable to write. Very dark, very funny. I found myself nodding in agreement every five pages. Vila-Matas explores the reasons behind the pathological refusal to do what you know you crave to do. I enjoyed the narrator's fri ...more
Nov 06, 2011 Tosh rated it it was amazing
At last! A novel about novelists that don't write. In fact they master the notion of "no." Enrique Vila-Matas is at the moment, one of my favorite living authors, who consistently questions the nature of literature and why one writes 'literature.' It is probably the ultimate book on writing and its (non)writers.
Although its a work of fiction, it is really a hardcore Literary criticism on a series of writers who either like Melville's great character Bartleby, just refuse to participate in the w
Gli scrittori del no sono quelli che rifiutano di continuare a scrivere e pubblicare. Nei casi più gravi e paradossali sono scrittori in potenza: persone che potrebbero e forse dovrebbero scrivere, ma non lo fanno né lo faranno mai. Credo si possa diventare anche lettori del no, in qualche modo. Questo libro è un eccellente e utile catalogo di scrittori del no, perfetto per i periodi in cui quel rifiuto bartlebiano si manifesta; in qualsiasi forma, anche non letteraria. (I Bartleby sono curiosam ...more
Ben Winch
Aug 20, 2012 Ben Winch rated it liked it
I wasn't convinced by this as a novel, though as a collection of essays it was interesting. Nor did the 'footnotes to an invisible text' ruse work for me - surely you could make that claim for any handful of half-connected non-fiction commentaries. I liked the concept of 'a Bartleby', and I will be reading the Melville story, and I liked the 'Literature of the No' concept too. I also appreciate anyone who starts out their book with a commentary on Robert Walser. 'Robert Walser knew that writing ...more
M. Sarki
Jan 12, 2014 M. Sarki rated it it was amazing
Enrique Vila-Matas came to me via Roberto Bolaño's book Between Parentheses: Essays, Articles, and Speeches, 1998-2003 where Bolaño championed the work of Vila-Matas. I immediately ordered the Vila-Matas Bartleby & Company novel that was nothing less than charming and gave me options aplenty for new and interesting Spanish-speaking writers to discover as well as an education regarding the preference of certain writers to decide not to do anything rather than write or publish their work.
Aug 25, 2011 Sean rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2011
oh holy f**king sh*t this book was so f**king awesome. it's basically a catalogue of nearly every author i've been interested in over the last year or so, gracq, traven, pessoa, musil, melville, kafka, walser, etc. and its a beautiful reading of them all that ties them together so perfectly. it's also, given mata-vilas' entry on b traven and bolano's appreciation of bartelby and co, pretty clearly bolano's inspiration for the archimboldi and critics part of 2666.
Thomas Hübner
Feb 29, 2016 Thomas Hübner rated it it was amazing

The hero - if I can call him that - and narrator of Bartleby & Co., a novel by the Spanish author Enrique Vila-Matas, is a failed writer who had published as a young man a novel on the impossibility of love. As a result of a personal trauma and the reaction of his surrounding to the publication of the book, he has become silent as an author, a modern Bartleby that spends most of his uneventful life in an office.

A misheard remark of a colleague ("Mr. Bartle
Jeff Jackson
Feb 25, 2009 Jeff Jackson rated it it was amazing
Fascinating catalog of authors who preferred not to write organized in the style of a freewheeling novel. An extra star for its invaluable reading recommendations. And in the spirit of the book, I now commend you to another text, Scott Adlerberg's admirable review of this.
Jan 17, 2016 Ryan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Annotated book without book.
Autobiography less bibliography.
Referent seeking reference.
Footnotes sans shoes.

Un-review posted here.
Dec 18, 2015 Sean rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2015, new-directions

I prefer not to review this.
Jun 30, 2014 Hriday rated it it was amazing
Enrique Vila Matas was not an author I had read or even heard of. This delightfully intelligent book for once opened up the possibility of Modern Spanish literature and European literature at large to me.
The book is written as a series of footnotes (Itself a text without a text) on authors who after publishing a book or maybe more fell into a prolonged literary silence. The list is impressive. We have stalwarts of modern literature right from Melville to Salinger to Faulkner and to even some ext
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  • Between Parentheses: Essays, Articles, and Speeches, 1998-2003
  • Fever and Spear (Your Face Tomorrow, #1)
  • Senselessness
  • The Literary Conference
  • Soldados de Salamina
  • The No World Concerto
  • The Museum of Eterna's Novel (The First Good Novel)
  • The Museum of Unconditional Surrender
  • En busca de Klingsor
  • Una comedia ligera
  • Marks of Identity
En el 68 se fue a vivir a París, autoexiliado del gobierno de Franco y buscando mayor libertad creativa. El apartamento donde se instaló se lo alquiló la escritora Marguerite Duras. Durante estos años subsistió realizando pequeños trabajos como periodista para la revista "Fotogramas", e incluso colaboró como figurante en una película de James Bond.

Vila-Matas publicó su primer libro: "La asesina il
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“En una descripción bien hecha, aunque sea obscena, hay algo moral: la voluntad de decir la verdad. Cuando se usa el lenguaje para simplemente obtener un efecto, para no ir más allá de lo que nos está permitido, se incurre paradójicamente en un acto inmoral.” 3 likes
“Como dice Blanchot, la esencia de la literatura nunca está ya aquí, siempre hay que encontrarla o inventarla de nuevo. Así vengo yo trabajando en estas notas, buscando e inventando, prescindiendo de que existen unas reglas de juego de la literatura. Vengo yo trabajando en estas notas de forma un tanto despreocupada o anárquica, de un modo que me recuerda a veces la respuesta que dio el gran torero Belmonte cuando, en una entrevista, le requirieron que hablara sobre su toreo. "¡Si no sé! -contestó-. Palabra que no sé. Yo no sé las reglas, ni creo en las reglas. Yo siento el toreo, y sin fijarme en las reglas lo ejecuto a mi modo."

"Quien afirme a la literatura en sí misma, no afirma nada. Quien la busca, sólo busca lo que se escapa, quien la encuentra, sólo encuentra lo que está aquí o, cosa peor, más allá de la literatura. Por eso, finalmente, cada libro persigue la no-literatura como la esencia de lo que quiere y quisiera apasionadamente descubrir.”
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