Review: Vampire in Love – Enrique Vila-Matas

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Vampire in Love – Enrique Vila-Matas (Translated by Margaret Jull Costa)
Release Date: 03/11/2016 (UK)
Publisher: And Other Stories (Review Copy Provided)
Pages: 298pp RRP: £12.99 (Hardback)

And Other Stories are rapidly becoming one of my favourite publishers. They originally caught my attention with the release of Yuri Herera’s Signs Preceding the End of the World, and now they’ve released a fantastic short story collection from one of Spain’s literary greats, Enrique Vila-Matas.

Vila-Matas has had an extensive career, with numerous awards to his name – including a knighthood in the French Legion of Honour, as well as being a founding member of the Order of Finnegans (the members of which venerate James Joyce’s Ulysses, and attend Bloomsday in Dublin each year) – but surprisingly few of his works have had major releases in the English-speaking market. Margaret Jull Costa, one of the best translators of Spanish fiction working today, has done an excellent job in translating this collection, with Vila-Matas’s subtle focus on meta-fiction and the blending of genres conveyed expertly. She’s succeeded in the difficult task of getting across some of the subtle nuanced characteristics of Spanish literature (of which Vila-Matas offers some of the best contemporary examples), something that could easily have been lost in the process, and that’s to be commended.

The stories in Vampire in Love tend to follow a simple formula: the narrators are placed in a bizarre situation within the opening paragraphs and the story grows from that starting point. These can range from the various narrators trying to make it through an exclusive dinner party in Paris whilst high on amphetamines (‘Sea Swell’), to meticulously noting down the conversations had by the passengers on an inner city bus journey (‘Modesty’). Whilst I found some of the longer stories in the collection to feel slightly less disciplined than the shorter ones, many of them had me laughing out loud – such as ‘Greetings from Dante’, an excellent example of how the author can draw humour out of some of the darkest concepts. Each of the stories are littered with bizarre anecdotes drawn from the author’s own travels (Vila-Matas actually stayed in the apartment he describes in ‘Sea Swell’), expertly woven in to the point of the narrative reaching a balancing point between the believable and the absurd.

Overall this is another brilliant release from And Other Stories, and proof positive that Enrique Vila-Matas is still one of the greats of Spanish literature.

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