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Mac and His Problem

Mac and His Problem

Enrique Vila-Matas
Translated by Margaret Jull Costa and Sophie Hughes from Spanish

Published by Harvill Secker
Mac is not writing a novel. He is writing a diary, which no one will ever read. At over 60, and recently unemployed, Mac is a beginner, a novice, an apprentice – delighted by the themes of repetition and falsification, and humbly armed with an encyclopaedic knowledge of literature.
Mac's wife, Carmen, thinks he is simply wasting his time and in danger of sliding further into depression and idleness. But Mac persists, diligently recording his daily walks through the neighbourhood. It is the hottest summer Barcelona has seen in over a century.
Soon, despite his best intentions (not to write a novel), Mac begins to notice that life is exhibiting strange literary overtones and imitating fragments of plot. As he sizzles in the heatwave, he becomes ever more immersed in literature – a literature haunted by death, but alive with the sheer pleasure of writing.

About the Author

Enrique Vila-Matas

Enrique Vila-Matas is widely considered to be one of Spain's most important contemporary novelists. His work has been translated into 30 languages and has won numerous international literary prizes, including the Herralde Prize, the Prix Médicis étranger and the Premio Rómulo Gallegos. Vila-Matas' books have been longlisted (Montano) and shortlisted (Dublinesque) for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize, and Never Any End to Paris was a finalist for the US Best Translated Book Award.


Margaret Elisabeth Jull Costa OBE has translated the works of many Spanish and Portuguese writers. She won the Portuguese Translation Prize for The Book of Disquiet by Fernando Pessoa in 1992 and for The Word Tree by Teolinda Gersão in 2012. With Javier Marías, she won the 1997 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award for A Heart So White, and, in 2000 and 2011, she won the Weidenfeld Translation Prize for All the Names and The Elephant’s Journey, both by José Saramago. In 2008, she won the Pen Book-of-the Month-Club Translation Prize and the Oxford Weidenfeld Translation Prize for The Maias by Eça de Queiroz. In 2015, she won the Marsh Children’s Fiction in Translation Award for The Adventures of Shola by Bernardo Atxaga, and in 2017, with her co-translator Robin Patterson, she won the Best Translated Book Award for Chronicle of the Murdered House by Lúcio Cardoso. In 2013, she was appointed a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and, in 2014, was awarded an OBE for services to literature.

Sophie Hughes was born in Chertsey, UK, in June 1986. She has translated novels by several contemporary Latin American and Spanish authors, including Best Translated Book Award 2017 finalist Laia Jufresa’s Umami and The Remainder by Alia Trabucco Zerán, which was shortlisted for the Man Booker International Prize in 2019. Her translations, reviews and essays have been published in The Guardian, The White Review, and Times Literary Supplement. She has been the recipient of a British Centre for Literary Translation mentorship and residency, a PEN Heim Literary Translation grant, and in 2018 she was shortlisted for an Arts Foundation 25th Anniversary Fellowship. She lives in Birmingham.