Borges claimed to be the ‘first traveller from the Hispanic world to set foot upon the shores of Ulysses’, though he confessed that his visit had been rather ‘inattentive and transient’. The contemporary Spanish writer Enrique Vila-Matas appears to have been more diligent. He has certainly paid careful attention to the sixth episode: Samuel Riba, the protagonist of his novel Dublinesque, finds its tropes everywhere. Since his retirement from publishing, Riba is haunted by the ghosts of his past, the ghosts of literature, and by a man in a mackintosh who might be the author of the novel he is in.
Then again, it could just be Samuel Beckett – for Vila-Matas has read a lot of other things as well. The novel is intensely and at times comically allusive. Riba is said to have an ‘exaggerated fanaticism for literature’, and a page rarely goes by without a citation, aphorism, or