‘Not writing is always a relief and sometimes a pleasure. Writing about what cannot be written, by contrast, is the devil’s own job.’ In this unusual text, a blend of essay, fiction and literary genealogy, South African novelist
Ivan Vladislavić explores the problems and potentials of the fictions he could not bring himself to write.
Drawing from his notebooks of the past 20 years, Vladislavić records here a range of ideas for stories—unsettled accounts, he calls them, or case studies of failure—and examines where they came from and why they eluded him. In the process, he reveals some of the principles that matter to him as a writer, and pays tribute to the writers— such as Walser, Perec, Sterne and DeLillo—who have been important to him as both a reader and an author. At the heart of the text, like a brightly lit room in a field of debris, stands Vladislavić’s Loss Library itself, the shelves laden with books that have never been written. On the page, Vladislavić tells us, every loss may yet be recovered.
An extraordinary book about both the nature of novels and the process of writing, The Loss Library will appeal to anyone seeking to understand the almost magical and mythical experience of breathing life into a new work of fiction.
Ivan Vladislavić is the author of The Folly, The Restless Supermarket, The Exploded View and Double Negative.