PRINT December 2016

Books: Best of 2016

Yasmine El Rashidi


The literary tradition of Spain feels most ingenious when playfully blurring genres, and the Catalan novelist Enrique Vila-Matas may well be the current master of that. Because She Never Asked (New Directions, 2015)is a three-part tale, recounted (almost) backward, about writing a story for the artist Sophie Calle to live out (as well as the author’s obsession with her and eventual writer’s block and collapse). The narrative is tricky, with an elliptical form, which makes you second-guess yourself: Did Calle really ask him to write something? What part of the story are we in—the real or the imagined? Is it all real? All imagined? In many ways, this slim book that envelops you feels like a performance. (It evoked for me Lebanese artist Walid Raad’s Scratching on things I could disavow: Walkthrough, 2007–, and the moment you begin to question what he’s telling you and then reflect back on all he has said already that you thought was true.) The book turns into a riddle, an object attempting to deconstruct and decipher literature and life, and, in the process, a meditation on the relationship between the two.

Yasmine El Rashidi is a writer living in Cairo and an editor of Bidoun; her most recent book is Chronicle of a Last Summer: A Novel of Egypt (Tim Duggan Books, 2016).