Written in the form of a lecture given over the course of three days, Spanish author Enrique Vila-Matas’s “Never Any End to Paris” is a joy to read, especially if one is a lover of books and literature and particularly Paris as a city and a cultural icon. It is the story of a writer looking back on his younger years (in this case the mid-1970s), obsessed with Hemingway, who decides to leave the confines of his native Barcelona in order to follow in the footsteps of his hero. What follows is one of the most enjoyable books I’ve read in a long time. The main theme here is irony, and this story is loaded with it. It follows the typical “expatriate” story - the writer going to Paris on order to write - and hunkers down in an upstairs room in the house of Marguerite Duras, who sort of becomes, in his mind at least, his “Gertrude Stein”.
The story follows his trials and travails, his struggles to write, meeting all kinds of colorful characters - both real and fictional - along the way. The book is definitely for the lover of literature, with heavy literary references peppered throughout the story, but mainly Hemingway (in which the title of the book is derived). It helps to have read at least some of the authors the character encounters along the way but it isn’t necessary and may even make the reader want to investigate them further. But it is most definitely a love letter to Paris and its literary and artistic culture but definitely not without a wink and a nod. There is a sense that some of this may have actually been based on his own experiences. It is a tale about the exploration of ideas, creativity and identity as well as the struggle with the fake and the pretentious. A great read. Highly recommended.