Whether the novel is or isn´t a product of the invention of printing seems to be one of the main literary debates of today. Of course, it´s a controversy generated by the new world of information technologies, but it isn´t something new. Walter Benjamin used to point out that the novel is just one of the many moments of the activity of narrating. Narration has always been the true constant of the human species and, the novel, transitory, only one of the many shapes that it adopts. The issue is to determine if this specific shape of narrating that we call novel, which hasn´t stopped transforming itself through the centuries, is tied inseparably to print, in which case it´s reasonable to say that the Internet will cause a forced mutation in the way of narrating, which will lead to, and it seems to have started already, new genres.
Despite that, the issue isn´t that easy, because from a more than one point of view, it results simple to associate the novel with the diffusion that literary fiction has been enjoying since Gutenberg´s experiment. You could argue convincingly, for example, if we go out of the western tradition, that to describe the Greek and Byzantine love stories, or Roman books like The Golden Ass by Apuleius, there isn´t a better term than novel, despite being separated by more than a thousand years with the invention of printing.
Precisely by the end of the Gutenberg era and with it, the possible end of the novel, it´s one of the subjects that Dublinesca, the latest novel by Vila-Matas, deals with in a supremely ironic, ingenious, intelligent way and with a great narrative ability. It´s about a retired man that considers himself the last literary editor and who decides, due to a premonition in a strange dream, to travel to Dublin to celebrate Bloomsday (June 16th, the date that Ulysses by James Joyce is set in which, according to the critics, one of the last great novels) by taking part in a very personal funeral due to the age of printing.
Dublinesca also became the return of Vila-Matas to Seix Barral, a publishing house from Barcelona which is indispensable in the last seven decades of Spanish cultural life, who this year celebrates its first centenary by being firmly committed to the digital era without giving up on producing printed books.
Although the Spanish writer Francisco Umbral (Winner of the Cervantes Prize and the Prince de Asturias Prize for Literature) didn´t stop disparaging, mostly in a morbid, unnecessary and rancorous grudge, the Catalan publisher by spreading the story that they turned back Cien años de soledad in the Sixties because they didn´t consider it good enough. In fact, Seix Barral owes itself to the publishing and spreading in Spain authors such as Musil, Jung, Gombrowicz, Pavese, Henry Miller, Juan Goytisolo, Marsé, Caballero Bonald, Martín Santos, Octavio Paz, Mendoza, Mishima, Wilde, Roland Barthes, Pessoa, Virginia Woolf, the very own García Márquez or Roberto Bolaño, just to name a few.
One of the latest books published by them, ?Las cinco muertes del barón airado”, is a novel about the investigation surrounding a murder attempt around modernist Barcelona. It is undoubtedly a suggestive read for when you rent apartments in Barcelona
Translated by: aleixgwilliam