Agustina Bazterrica: Cadáver exquisito (Tender Is the Flesh)

The latest addition to my website is Agustina Bazterricas Cadáver exquisito (Tender Is the Flesh). This is a novel about cannibalism, not occasional cannibalism but official, world-wide cannibalism. A virus has led to all animals being wiped out (though it may have been fake news) and eating human flesh is the norm. Certain groups (the poor, immigrants, the marginalised) have been bred for their meat. We follow the story of Marcos Tejos, manager at a processing plant, i.e. one which takes humans, kills them and sells them to butchers as meat. We follow Marcos as he makes his rounds, visiting the breeding stations, the butchers, even the hunters, though he has his own problems (wife gone back to her mother after death of their young son, father with dementia). Bazterrica spares us no details and she gives us full details of, for example, the slaughtering process. Not a novel for the squeamish but she makes her point about overpopulation, carnivores and human hypocrisy.

Sergio Bizzio: Borgestein

The latest addition to my website is Sergio Bizzio‘s Borgestein. Enzo, the narrator, is an Argentinian psychiatrist. He is attacked and wounded with a knife by one of his patients, Borgestein. This traumatises him so much that he buys a cabin in the mountains and heads off there, to do nothing. He leaves behind his wife, Julia. They have been married eighteen months but have barely seen each other in that time, as they have different schedules. She is a very successful theatre actress. At the cabin, there is a waterfall which is beautiful but whose noise really annoys him, so he starts a project to fill up the pool below with rocks. Apart from a puma attacking a passer-by and the noisy waterfall, he seems to more or less settle down, till he sees a photo of Julia in a magazine with Borgestein standing just behind her. It is a fine novel, with various plot strands to keep us interested.

César Aira: Artforum (Artforum)

The latest addition to my website is César Aira‘s Artforum (Artforum). This is a series of short pieces all linked by the US art magazine Artforum. The narrator is a devoted reader of the magazine but it is difficult to obtain in Buenos Aires, where he lives so, eventually, he subscribes to it. However, delivery is not reliable and this causes him much grief. However, in normal Aira fashion, we get all sorts of odd tangents, such as the magazine having a mind of its own, the narrator getting killed by a policeman because of the magazine, the narrator even considering producing his own edition of the magazine, not to mention the somewhat odd issue of clothes pegs randomly breaking. As always it is great fun and highly original.

César Aira: El mago [The Magician]

The latest addition to my website is César Aira‘s El mago [The Magician]. The short way to describe this novel would to say it is about a depressed magician. Our hero Hans Chans, is an Argentinian magician. Unlike other magicians, he does not perform tricks, he really can do magic. However, he has been reluctant to use his skill, for example, to make money for himself, in case it aroused suspicion so he has made a good and honest living doing a magic act, not using sleight of hand or similar tricks but really doing magic. However, he wants to be more than good, he wants to be great. Much of the novel is about his attendance at a magicians’ congress in Panama where he plans to reveal his new trick and where a lot goes wrong for him, making him even more despondent than he has been. The problem is that he lacks the imagination to invent one. Then his magic seems to have a mind of its own, which he cannot control. But, unusually for Aira, there is a straightforward, albeit completely unexpected solution to his problem. Not one of his best but still a most unusual work, sadly not available in English.

Rodrigo Fresán: La parte soñada (The Dreamed Part)

The latest addition to my website is Rodrigo Fresán‘s La parte soñada (The Dreamed Part), the follow-up to his La parte inventada (The Invented Part). Once again, we are following the anonymous writer and his travails. He now considers himself an ex-writer, as his career is going nowhere. As the title tells us, a lot of the book is about dreams (and sleep and insomnia), including the science of dreams but also dreams in literature and his own dreams. We even have a fictitious plague which stops most people from dreaming and an organisation which harvests the few remaining dreams. His mad sister and her obsession with Wuthering Heights and his obsession with Nabokov also feature. It is a long, rambling novel, as was its predecessor, but if you like long and rambling, you will learn a lot about dreams and literature.

César Aira: Princesa primavera [Princess Springtime]

The latest addition to my website is César Aira‘s Princesa primavera [Princess Springtime]. This is something of a subversion of the traditional fairy tale. The eponymous princess lives in a palace on a small island off the coast of Panama. Apart from servants, she is alone. Most of the locals survive from fishing. She, however, is a professional translator of popular novels, not well paid but happy enough. One day, however, the island is threatened with an attack from General Winter, a legendary enemy of her family. All the princess has to help her is the corpse of the famous pianist Vladimir Horowitz, his widow, a decrepit French botanist, a castaway called Picnic and talking ice creams. Don’t look for logic in an Aira novel but you will find philosophical discussions, subversion of traditional forms and the entirely unexpected. The book has not been translated not English.

Rodrigo Fresán: La parte inventada (The Invented Part)

The latest addition to my website is Rodrigo Fresán‘s La parte inventada (The Invented Part). This is a long, rambling novel, the first of the trilogy, about Fresán’s favourite subject – writers and writing. We follow the story of the Writer and his career, from his childhood to his later life, when his writing is not as successful as it had once been. We also follow the story of his mad sister, Penelope, and her association with the colourful Karma family. But we also follow the stories of various writers, both real (William Burroughs and F. Scott Fitzgerald being the main ones) and fictitious. We learn about how and why writers write, including using their friends and families as source, as both our writer and Fitzgerald did. Perhaps not entirely surprisingly, it all ends up in the Large Hadron Collider in Geneva. It is rambling and colourful and inventive and a long read.

Nicolás Giacobone: El cuaderno tachado (The Crossed-Out Notebook)

The latest addition to my website is Nicolás Giacobone‘s El cuaderno tachado (The Crossed-Out Notebook). Giacabone is a scriptwriter so it is not surprising that his first novel tells the story of a scriptwriter, Pablo Betances. Pablo had wanted to be a musician but did not make it so became a writer and then a scriptwriter. He had written for the greatest living Argentinian film director, Santiago Salvatierra. He was flattered when Salvatierra invited him to his house, so he told no-one, so no-one now knows that Salvatierra has kidnapped him and he has been locked in Salvatierra’s basement for five years, writing scripts. We follow his scriptwriting but also his writing in a notebook which, as the title, tells us, he crosses out. He ruminates (on Salvatierra, his life, art), he masturbates and he sleeps but still keeps on writing and is still stuck in the basement.

César Aira: El testamento del mago tenor [The Will of the Tenor Magician]

The latest addition to my website is César Aira‘s El testamento del mago tenor [The Will of the Tenor Magician]. This book, not translated into English, tells the story of a magician who, on his deathbed, leaves a special magic trick to the Eternal Buddha. The Eternal Buddha is a god but also very much a living being and very small indeed, living in a dilapidated house in the Punjab, with his housekeeper, Mrs Gohu, with whom he has a tempestuous relationship. We follow this story but also the story of Jean Ball, a lawyer, who takes the trick to the Buddha but who meets the lovely Palmyra on the way out and, on the way back, the mysterious Mr Gauchat who is reading a book about Buddha, in which Ball is featured. As is usual with Aira, it is all decidedly strange but highly enjoyable, if you do not mind some mystery in your life.

Sergio Chejfec: Los incompletos (The Incompletes)

The latest addition to my website is Sergio Chejfec‘s Los incompletos (The Incompletes). This is a decidedly strange novel. The unnamed narrator tells of his friend Felix, who has decided to leave Argentina and travel the world. Much of the book takes place in Moscow, where Felix stays in a hotel well away from the centre, with the building seemingly having a life of its own. The book is about his relationship with Masha, daughter of the owner and receptionist, though they essentially have no relationship, except watching one another. Felix does not leave the hotel till later in the book, when he discovers a huge, mysterious crater. Meanwhile the narrator (Chefjec himself?) muses on the whys and wherefores of Felix, Masha and their non-relationship, which may (or may not) help each of them make the other more complete.