I am reading BARTLEBY & CO (first published 2000, tr 2004) by Enrique Vila-Matas (b Barcelona 1948), and I have reached page 147. It is at this point some 31 pages from the end soon after the crooked narrator Marcelo (a hunchback from Barcelona) states that he has received a letter from Derain that I find myself unable to continue reading: ” I would prefer not to”, I say.
Who is Derain, and what are the references to Schopenhauer’s philosophy which are contained in his letter to Marcello? I long to find out, but I now do not expect to. I want to read on but somebody has slammed the book shut in front of my face. I have been doubly duped of course, both by the idea of “tracking down the labyrinth of the No”, and the possibility of a thread which would lead me to the end of the book, while I am actually unable to continue.
“I would prefer not to.” I feel this will end badly, the book I mean, or my experience of abandoning it, and either way I am bound to end up disappointed. In fact rather than forgetting the book, I sense the book has forgotten me, here at page 147 where the reader and write part company, which is also shortly after a footnote on migraines, or the shadow from under the branches of a thorn bush, or the letter from Derain.
There are only just over 30 pages to go, but NO – it is Intermission Time – or the Coda if you prefer, and the time for re-enactment. As a constructivist gesture, I consider taping the last unread 31 pages together, but this is like Prince Charming coming to the rescue of Sleeping Beauty under the thorn bush. It would be the conclusive gesture, to bring this thing to an end, she would bite his lips rather than kiss them.