Download Bartleby & Co. by Enrique Vila-Matas PDF
By Enrique Vila-Matas
In Bartleby & Co., an vastly stress-free novel, Enrique Vila-Matas tackles the topic of silence in literature: the writers and non-writers who, just like the scrivener Bartleby of the Herman Melville tale, in resolution to any query or call for, replies: "I would like now not to." Addressing such "artists of refusal" as Robert Walser, Robert Musil, Arthur Rimbaud, Marcel Duchamp, Herman Melville, and J. D. Salinger, Bartleby & Co. might be defined as a meditation: a jogging journey in the course of the annals of literature. Written as a chain of footnotes (a non-work itself), Bartleby embarks on such questions as why can we write, why will we exist? the reply lies within the novel itself: informed from the viewpoint of a airtight hunchback who has no good fortune with ladies, and is himself not able to put in writing, Bartleby is completely attractive, a piece of profound and philosophical good looks.
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Patrilinear succession also depends on the pursuit of heterosexual partners in the ‘traffic in women’, and again Hamlet is not part of this chain. Shakespeare’s Hamlet emphasizes the link between love and speedy progression when he wishes that he ‘with wings as swift as meditation or the thoughts of love may sweep to my revenge’ (Act I, Scene 5). But Nielsen’s Hamlet instead is a bird with ‘clipped wings’, as the intertitle has it. She cannot chase and possess women as she is secretly a woman herself.
179, my emphasis). 4 What is never questioned is that time is the stable flow that joins these repeated moments into a continuous identity. In a Foucauldian inversion, I would here like to take time not as the given, but as also constructed by gender. What if it is the seeming stability of gender that creates the illusion that time flows in a constant line? The repeated moments of gendered behaviour would then suggest that there is such a thing as stable gender, and also as linear time. This is why drag performances can be seen to subvert both gender and time.
Normally, films gloss over this conflated chronology, in order to sustain the pleasurable illusion of letting audiences partake in the action as it happens. Nielsen’s Hamlet, however, takes the opposite approach of drawing attention to the differences between these points in time by marking them through differences in gender. Spectators are constantly reminded that they are seeing the historical moments of the crossdressing male Hamlet in medieval Denmark as well as the female Nielsen in 1920s Germany simultaneously rather than in temporal succession.