A Universal History of Infancy?

The following writers who appear in Bartleby & Co. I believe to be inventions of Enrique Vila-Matas (the number refers to the chapter reference):

  • 1. Roberto Moretti, author of Institute Pierre Menard, a parody of Walser’s Institute Benjamenta, in which “pupils are taught to say “no” to over a thousand proposals”.
  • [less certain] 3. Asselineau, author of The Musician’s Hell – a Charles Asselineau, who was a friend of Baudelaire, did indeed write a book called L’Enfer du Bibliophile, which can be read here. (Though you’d have thought V-M would have rather gone for the “bibliophile”). I’d be grateful if someone could verify this: Vila-Matas says it “tells of the terrible hallucinations endured by a composer condemned to hear all his compositions performed both well and badly on all the pianos in the world simultaneously”.
  • 3. Marius Ambrosinus, who is quoted as saying “In my opinion, God is an exceptional person.” He has a plausible name (reminds me of Aurelius Ambrosius, aka Ambrose of Milan), but, as far as I can ascertain, non-existent.
  • (7. Bobi Bazlen – does seem to exist, though I’ve heard it bruited elsewhere on the internet that he’s made up – Roberto Bazlen – unless it turns out he is an elaborate invention of Daniele del Giudice (I had a copy of this book once, may still do somewhere)).
  • 9. Clément Cadou (though he seems to have developed a life since Vila-Matas’ book), who always wanted to be a writer but, upon meeting Witold Gombrowicz one day, conceived he was nothing more than a piece of furniture, and spent the rest of his career painting pieces of furniture under the title “Self-Portrait”. Also, therefore, the story Georges Perec wrote about him, “A Portrait of the Artist Seen as a Piece of Furniture, Always”. A hard one to prove – you’d be almost convinced he existed, and I really wasn’t sure – but then I discovered proof: on Vila-Matas’ website, no less, there’s a photograph of Clément Cadou which, for a moment, made my heart sink, but as I looked at the photo I thought: wait a minute, I’ve seen that face before: isn’t that, Vila-Matas himself? (He mentions Cadou quite a bit in that piece: I’ll have to get my Spanish dictionary out some time and read it). (You think this story sounds mad anyway and you’d never conceive it as genuine, but the LA Times, in its review, considered it “the most haunting story” in the book.)
  • 11. Robert Derain, author of Eclipses littéraires (see for instance, this article by Vila-Matas himself), which should come as no surprise to the reader since he’s an important character in the novel
  • 45. Rita Malú, see above – a writer included within Eclipses littéraires.
  • 60. Antonio de la Mota Ruiz, creator of the character Paranoid Pérez, who, every time he has an idea for a book, discovers that José Saramago has just written it.
  • 64. Marcel Maniere, author of Perfumed Hell, see previous post.
  • 78. Klara Whoryzek, author of The Intimate Light. (Perhaps Vila-Matas recollects that Kafka was once engaged to a Julie Whoryzek).

I figure that’s it. The others seem to check out (though I might have missed some names). Further verification or questioning of existences is most welcome. What I haven’t had the time or energy to pursue, though, is the more worrying question: not whether these writers exist, but whether what is said of, or attributed to, them is actually true.

Next post: I actually review Bartleby & Co..


13 thoughts on “A Universal History of Infancy?

  1. Came here by googling Marcel Maniere. Was really hoping he’d exist… fuck. Very inspiring blog, nevertheless!

  2. Good, I’m glad google actually directs someone usefully to my blog for once, even if the information they find is only disappointing. Maniere’s story was always too good to be true.

  3. i just finished this book the other day and wanted to know more about Klara Whoryzek; i was disappointed to learn she is an invention. BOO!
    however, if you weren’t already aware, both of the Carlos Diaz Dufoos (Sr & Jr) are very real! but they are not yet widely translated to english. BOO Again! a man named M Cisco says he’s translated Epigrams by CDD Jr and Cuentos Nerviosos, or Nervous Stories, by CDD Sr. i wish he would make these translations available at his blog. if interested, see entry dated 2.16.12 @
    this is what was Vila-Matas wrote about CDD Jr:
    “And I’d like to make another exception for a genius of Mexinca literature, the suicide Carlos Diaz Dufoo Jr. For this strange writer art is also a false path, an idiocy. In the epitaph from his bizarre Epigrams – published in Paris 1927 ans supposedly composed in this city, though later research shows that Carlos Diaz Dufoo Jr never left Mexico – he affirmed that his action were dark and his words insignificant and he asked to be imitated. This out-and-out Bartelyb is one of my greatest literary weaknesses and, despite committing suicide, he had to take his place in this book of footnotes. “He was a complete stranger among us,” Christopher Domingues Michael, the Mexican critic, has said of him. One has to be very strange indeed to appear strange to the Mexicans, who – at least so it seems to me – are so strange themselves.
    I shall finish with one of his epigrams, my favourite epigram by Dufoo Jr: ‘In his tragic desparation he brutally tore the hairs from his wig.'”
    ps~ Maniere’s Perfumed Hell reads like fun to me!

  4. Quien quiera una edición en PDF de Epigramas, denme su e-mail, y con gusto se los enviaré. Actualmente me dedico al estudio de Dufoo Jr, y sus Epigramas, pronto terminaré mi tesis sobre él.

  5. Marius Ambrosinus was not invented by Enrique Vila-Matas but by J. Rodolfo Wilcock who puts his quotation at the beginning of El estereoscopio de los solitarios. J. Rodolfo Wilcock died in 1978.

  6. That’s interesting information. I must dig out Bartleby & Co. again and re-read that section (I seem to have packed it away somewhere).

    I’d like very much to read J. Rodolfo Wilcock, but he is pretty much unobtainable in English; I have heard good things about him.

  7. Fascinating stuff. Tom (of the Wuthering Expectation blog) kindly directed me here as I’ve just posted a piece on Bartleby & Co. Robert Derain – yes, I thought that whole episode might be fictional. And I wondered about Foix and his patisserie, but he seems to check out…

  8. Thanks Jacqui. I did read your post, and saw people were discussing whether characters were fictional or not. I suppose the thing with Bartleby & Co. is that the fictional writers are not noticeably different from the real ones.

  9. Just read this and started googling names – whenever I got a fake right, I got sent here 🙂 Having said that, I chose eight names, and four were fakes and four were real…

  10. Thank you for this post. It’s been fun searching out more info on the real and imagined characters of this novel. Happy to see many others have gone before me. Sad to learn that I’ll never be able to see an exhibit of Clément Cadou paintings. 🙂

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