Mac's Problem


Enrique Vila-Matas (Author), Margaret Jull Costa (Translator), Sophie Hughes (Translator)

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Enrique Vila-Matas’s new novel is perhaps his greatest: “playful and funny and among the best Spanish novelists” (Colm Tóibín)

Mac is currently unemployed and lives on his wife’s earnings. An avid reader, he decides at the age of sixty to keep a diary. Mac’s wife, a dyslexic, thinks he is simply wasting his time and risking sliding further into depression—but Mac persists, and is determined that this diary won't turn into a novel. However, one day, he has a chance encounter with a neighbor, a successful author of a collection of enigmatic, willfully obscure stories. Mac decides that he will read, revise, and improve his neighbor’s stories, which are mostly narrated by a ventriloquist who has lost the ability to speak in different voices. As Mac embarks on this task, he finds that the stories have a strange way of imitating life. Or is life imitating the stories? As the novel progresses, Mac becomes more adrift from reality, and both he and we become ever more immersed in literature: a literature haunted by death, but alive with the sheer pleasure of writing.


“[Vila-Matas] charges the various tensions in his hybridized book: the artificial nature of plot and the apparent triviality of day-to-day existence, how life imitates art and art imitates life... Mac’s Problem boasts an impressive architecture.” — Eric Banks, Bookforum

“Diary, essay, thriller, conspiracy theory, posthumous memoir, novel—Vila-Matas uses all the materials to construct his latest metafictional fun house.” — Kirkus

“Literature is a space of twinned opposing forces: danger and refuge, death and life, and regrets and longing. Enrique Vila-Matas guides us into this treacherous realm so completely that I have learned to approach his books with a mix of excitement and dread.” — On the Seawall

“Vila-Matas’s bouncy prose is the highlight of this lively ride through a writer’s mind.” — Publishers Weekly

“Vila-Matas seems determined to test our faith, crafting tales of surrealist noir in which virtually anything can happen except happiness.” — The New Yorker

“The tremendously touching characters in Enrique Vila-Matas’s novels—who stumble from one place to the next, not really sure where they are going, but always on a quest—are so deeply comical on the one hand, and so deeply poignant on the other, that you just have to give yourself up to it because you’re in the hands of a master.” — Paul Auster

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