The latest addition to my website is César Aira‘s Las curas milagrosas del Dr. Aira (The Miracle Cures of Dr. Aira). As the title tells us, Dr Aira is a faith healer but his faith healing methodology is, even by normal faith healing standards and Aira’s usual modus operandi, somewhat unconventional, as it seems to involve rearranging the universe. Not surprisingly, Dr. Actyn, chief of medicine at Piñero Hospital, and his colleagues, consider Dr. Aira a quack, and aim to show him up. As we see this entirely from the perspective of Dr Aira, a somewhat strange, solitary man, given to somnambulism, Actyn and Co are seen as the enemy while he is doing good work. As usual, Aira dives into strange philosophical ideas and a plot line which is, to say the least, somewhat odd, even by his own standards.
The latest addition to my website is Pola Oloixarac‘s Las constelaciones oscuras (Dark Constellations). This novel tells the story of stunning scientific discoveries and inventions, in the field of botany, genetics and information technology, from 1882 to some time in the not too distant future. In all cases, the discoveries/inventions lead to a new way of looking at the world. In the present/near future, we follow Cassio, a top hacker who is involved in a project which allows governments in Latin America to track all individuals purely on the basis of their genetic imprint, a dangerous invention which Cassio finally realises. Oloixarac enthuses about these technological and scientific changes that she describe, while being less ready to point their harmful effects. Despite that, this really is an original and innovative novel.
The latest addition to my website is César Aira‘s La cena (Dinner). This is Aira’s zombie novel. The narrator, a sixty-year old, never married bankrupt man, living with his mother on her pension, and the mother go to dinner with a friend. The mother and friend gossip about the people in the town, past and present, and then the friend shows them various curiosities he has in his house, of which the mother does not approve. That evening, while the narrator is channel surfing, zombies rise en masse from the cemetery and attack the town, sucking the endorphins from the brains of the inhabitants. They kill many and badly damage the town but a solution is found, connected with the events of the dinner that evening. It is not quite your standard zombie novel, primarily because of the way the zombies are controlled, but it is certainly one of Aira’s most unusual works.
The latest addition to my website is César Aira‘s El pequeño monje budista (The Little Buddhist Monk). This, as is usual with Aira, starts off reasonably conventionally and then gradually gets stranger and stranger. The eponymous very little monk is Korean and longs to go abroad but, as a mendicant monk, cannot afford to do so. He meets a French tourist couple – he photographs culturally charged spaces – and, as he speaks fluent French, offers to take them to a temple off the beaten track. Things start getting peculiar on the train journey, with passengers continually pulling the communication cord. At the temple the sun disappears, the light plays tricks (as do the monks) and we learn that our monk may not be human and we may be in a parallel world. Or we may not. It is great fun, as usual but you really won’t be entirely clear about what is happening and why.
The latest addition to my website is César Aira‘s Prins, his most recent work to date. The narrator is a writer of Gothic novels, a job that pays well because they sell well but a job he seems to hate. However, he does not know what else he could do with his time. After considering and rejecting various possibilities, he comes up with the only possible solution: opium. En route to the dealer, on bus 126, he meets Alicia. He buys the opium from a house called Antiquity. The opium is delivered but as the key to Antiquity is hidden in the huge quantity of opium, he also gets Ujier, the dealer, as well. The narrator, Alicia and Ujier hide away in his massive house. However, the opium starts to have an effect and life becomes one of his Gothic novels. Another strange but fascinating work from Aira, not yet available in English.
The latest addition to my website is César Aira‘s Embalse [Reservoir]. This is another first-class novel by Aira, telling about a couple from Buenos Aires holidaying in a remote Argentinian town by a lake with their young children. Martín, the husband, keeps finding strange things on his walks – large houses just near his he had never seen before, paths he had never seen before, strange perspectives and nature in its glory but also its mystery. He does not take to the locals, whom he finds peculiar nor does he take to the gay/transvestite community. However, his walks and investigations reveal strange goings-on, probably associated with the Fish Breeding Centre, with chickens that can swim, strange glows and an influx of major Argentinian footballers into the town. Poking around where he perhaps should not reveals much more. Sadly, this novel has not been translated into English, whcih is a pity, as it is a very fine work.
The latest addition to my website is César Aira‘s La prueba (The Proof). This is another Aira novel where you wonder what is going happening for the first part and then it suddenly explodes. Marcia is a sixteen-year old girl, wandering through the Flores district of Buenos Aires. She is accosted by two punk women, who call themselves Mao and Lenin. Mao immediately tells Marcia that she has fallen in love with her and wants to have sex with her. Marcia is both shocked and intrigued and accompanies the two women to a café, where they refuse to buy anything but sit at a table, and then to a local mega-supermarket, where things really explode. As always Aira takes us by surprise with the proof of love the two young women offer. Not his best but maybe his most surprising ending.
The latest addition to my website is Norah Lange‘s Personas en la sala (People in the Room). This is the second Lange book I have read but the first to be published in English, sixty-eight years after it first appeared in Spanish. It tells the story of a seventeen-year old woman who observes the three sisters who live in the house opposite and almost never leave the house or, indeed, the room. She wonders who they are and, eventually, gets to know them but still learns little about who they are. The whole story is told about the four women, as though sealed off from the rest of the world, with only occasional appearances by other, peripheral characters. There is a feeling of death, sadness and complete isolation hanging over them and the story. Lange tells her story very well, with what is not said as important as what is said.
The latest addition to my website is César Aira‘s Los fantasmas (Ghosts). The novel is set in a high-rise building in Buenos Aires, where expensive flats are being built for the well-to-do but which is still not finished. A Chilean family, the Viñas, who act as caretakers, lives in the building. The story is set on New Year’s Eve and the Viñas are having family round for a celebration. However, there is another party. The resident ghosts are having their Big Midnight Feast. The workers and the Viñas take the ghosts for granted, even though they are all male and all naked. The ghosts invite Patri, the eldest Viñas child to their party. There is only one condition. She must be dead. As always with Aira, it is a superb story, with a philosophical aside and an awareness of the ordinary people.
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.