Art and Anger pp 159-166 | Cite as

The Brick Novel

  • Ilan Stavans


Our fin-de-siècle has solidified the intercourse between encyclopedias and the novel. In his last memo for the next millennium, Italo Calvino suggested the term hypernovel to describe the by-product of their relationship, an all-knowing, all-encompassing fictional narrative whose virtues defy time and space. The term brings to mind images of immoderation and excess, and portrays its creators as gluttonous, Epicurean artists given to dissipation, which indeed they are. Enthralled by its richness, possessed by its “challenge to eternity”, Calvino described the standard hypernovel as a formidable text of modulating structures and accumulative shape mirroring our vast epistemological ambition and our licentious linguistic drive. He then went on to list Flaubert’s Bouvard et Pécuchet, George Perec’s La Vie mode d’emploi, and Carlo Emilio Gadda’s Quer pastissiaccio brutto de Via Merulana, as precursors. But many more titles ought to be added to the list, including the ubiquitous ones by Cervantes, Rabelais, Laurence Sterne, Diderot, and Machado de Assis, which are at the very inception of this most promiscuous of literary subgenera.


Mexico City Spanish Language National Modernization Concrete Existence Apocalyptic Vision 


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Copyright information

© Ilan Stavans 1996

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  • Ilan Stavans

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