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.

César Aira: El volante [The Flyer]

The latest addition to my website is César Aira‘s El volante [The Flyer]. This is another novel from Aira which starts in a fairly straightforward manner and then veers off, concluding with something of an apocalyptic ending.

Norma Traversini is a teacher of dramatic arts, who is writing a flyer to be distributed around the neighbourhood (in Buenos Aires) offering her services to teach her neighbours how to be more sincere in their daily dealings with lovers, bosses and children. Unfortunately, she gets carried away in explanations and, even when she starts again, does not seem to be able to do anything but waffle. She then changes tack and starts summarising a novel she has recently read, the name of whose main character, Lady Barbie Windson (sic) is the name she has chosen for her studio. Lady Barbie is being educated in Kent while her parents are in India. When her mother suddenly dies, she, aged twenty, is summoned to India to be her father’s hostess. She gets caught up in a wild adventure, involving Catholic vs Protestants battles, kidnappings, crocodiles, polo ponys, Indian mystics, teleportation, silk worms, the ruined city of Kali, resurrection from the dead and a strange character called The Mask. It is all great fun but does not help Norma with her flyer.

César Aira: El llanto [Crying]

The latest addition to my website is César Aira‘s El llanto [Crying], one of the many of his works that sadly has not been translated into English. This one is also particularly strange though Ì have probably also said that before about an Aira work. Our narrator is a writer whose career is faltering and, more particularly, so is his marriage, as his wife, the beautiful Claudia, has run off with a Japanese terrorist. Indeed, our narrator witnesses the terrorist assassinate the Argentinian prime minister. He is now left alone in his flat, with only the company of their dog Rin-Tin-Tin, when Claudia goes out, which is frequently. Not surprisingly, the dog, and other animals, talk to him. Three-quarters of the way through the novel, the narrator announces the story is about to start and, indeed, everything changes again. Unusual by most other standards but perhaps not by Aira’s.

César Aira: Las curas milagrosas del Dr. Aira (The Miracle Cures of Dr. Aira)

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.

Pola Oloixarac: Las constelaciones oscuras (Dark Constellations)

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.

César Aira: La cena (Dinner)

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.

César Aira: El pequeño monje budista (The Little Buddhist Monk)

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.

César Aira: Prins

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.

César Aira: Embalse [Reservoir]

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.