The Loss Library and Other Unfinished Stories

Ivan Vladislavic


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Seagull Books London Ltd
25 September 2018
ISBN: 9780857425881
126 pages

From the publisher

'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 The Loss Library and Other Unfinished Stories, a blend of essay, fiction and literary genealogy, Ivan Vladislavic explores the problems and potentials of the fictions he could not bring himself to write. Drawing from his notebooks, he records here a range of ideas for stories—unsettled accounts, 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. An extraordinary book about both the nature of novels and the process of writing, The Loss Library, which includes twelve collages by Sunandini Banerjee that were specially created to accompany each of the stories in the collection, explores the magical experience of breathing life into a new work of fiction.


'In the tradition of Elias Canetti, a tour de force of the imagination.'—André Brink

'The prose is stunning. It gives the impression of the words and the phrases having been caught from the inside—as though the author lives on the other side of language, where every word is strange and dancing, and the way they are put together produces complicated patterned exchanges like minuets.' —Tony Morphet

'[A] thought-provoking collection—some of these stories may, indeed, be more successful as failures than if they had been completed. And The Loss Library is also a truly lovely book (as object).'—M.A. Orthofer, The Complete Review

'I couldn’t resist the allure of Ivan Vladislavic’s book of might-have-beens, and now that I’ve finished it, I am totally charmed by its originality and elegance.' —Christopher Reid, author of A Scattering and The Song of Lunch

”Ivan Vladislavic writes with a passion about his subjects that incites concision. With the thematic unity he’s established, we come to see his assemblage of personal losses as part of wider losses of art throughout history, though he never says so. Thus, this odd book accrues a richness at having covered both personal and historical ground within the territory of the author’s mind.” —Matthew Jakubowski | The National

'The Loss Library is a beautifully made book. Illustrations by Sunandini Bannerjee are tipped into the opening pages of chapters—their distortions, suggestions and incompletions complement the author’s intent and style. There is a sly slightness to the book, an airiness that inspires wonder about the elusive narratives all around us.'  —Ron Slate | On The Seawall