‘Never Any End to Hemingway’ by Eduardo Halfon


From Words Without Borders:

Well here we are, he wrote to Anderson, as he lay there, smoking. He liked typing letters from his bed with the black Corona on his lap. And we sit outside the Dome Café, opposite the Rotonde that’s being redecorated, he wrote to Anderson, warmed up against one of those charcoal braziers and it’s so damned cold outside and the brazier makes it so warm and we drink rum punch, hot, and the rum enters into us like the Holy Spirit. Period—new paragraph, as he weighed up his words, as he smoked. And when it’s a cold night in the streets of Paris and we’re walking home down the Rue Bonaparte, he wrote to Anderson, we think of the way the wolves used to slink into the city, and François Villon and the gallows at Montfaucon. What a town, he wrote to Anderson. From somewhere far away there was a pleasant waft of perfume. He looked up and saw the dress she’d worn the previous night draped over the back of a chair. Bones is out in it now and I’ve been earning our daily bread on this typewriter. In a couple of days we’ll be settled, he wrote to Anderson, and then I’ll send out the letters of introduction like launching a flock of ships.


I’ve just received an e-mail from Vila-Matas. On Sunday I travel to Venezuela, to Caracas, he writes, as one of the judges of the Rómulo Gallegos Prize, which has meant my having to read 254 books. Now there are 40 left, and eventually there will be just one left, and I imagine I’ll be left, too, completely drained.

I met Enrique Vila-Matas in Barcelona, in the celebrations for Saint Jordi, that weird, crazy Catalan ritual with books and roses and endless queues and seventy authors signing their books at El Corte Inglés. I arrived, with Esteban Martín, at the Laie Bookshop on the Calle Pau Claris, close to the Plaza de Cataluña, to sign copies of the Cervantine novel I’d just had published with Littera Books. I signed one—the copy, by the way, belonging to an embarrassed Dutch friend of mine. Ah well, nothing to be done about that. When we arrived, Vila-Matas was already sitting under the little awning amid all the chaos of the crowd, serious, still, waiting to scribble an enigmatic drawing in the books of any eager passerby who happened to recognize him. Impeccably turned-out, handsome, his then-publisher Jorge Herralde hovered a few feet behind him. I approached Vila-Matas and introduced myself, briefly but with some detail, utterly intimidated by his reserved, somber expression and his intense stare, which for some reason reminded me of a tiger’s. Partly stammering, partly shouting above the hubbub, I finally came to an end. He cautiously accepted the two books of mine that I’d wanted to present to him, and continued to look at me, somewhat bemused. I wasn’t able to catch any of that, he said, who are you, again?

A few days ago, smoking at three in the morning, unable to sleep, I wrote to Enrique asking him who his influences were as a writer. There are at least two of them, as is becoming apparent to me.

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