César Aira: El santo [The Saint]

The latest addition to my website is César Aira‘s El santo [The Saint], one of his more recent novels, somewhat longer than many of his previous ones and not yet translated into English. It tells the story of an unnamed priest in medieval Catalonia who is considered a saint. When he plans to retire to his native Italy, the monastery and local town realise they will lose a major tourist attraction and plan to murder him, as his corpse will be as valuable as the living man. However, he gets away onto a Greek ship, which is captured by Turkish pirates. He is sold into slavery in North Africa but does not seem to suffer. He manages to travel around and becomes close to the rulers of two territories, where we get Aira’s usual digressions on life and thought. There is one major plot twist at the end but it is not terribly important compared to Aira’s views on life and his exposition of the story of an elderly saintly man who finds a new meaning to his life and a new world.

Dong Xi: 后悔录 (Record of Regret)

The latest addition to my website is Dong Xi‘s 后悔录 (Record of Regret). This is fascinating novel set primarily in the Cultural Revolution and follows the story of Ceng Guangxian, a young man who makes a succession of poor judgements, as regards the opposite sex but also in all aspects of his life. This is partially because he has a big mouth, not a good idea in the Cultural Revolution, which gets him and many others into trouble, but also because he simply does not know to deal with people or, indeed, with life. He nearly marries three different women but ends up messing up their lives and his own, not least because he does not understand women at all. The whole novel is summed up by the fact that he is narrating the novel to a person whose identity is not revealed until the end but who is unconscious for the entire narration.