Category: Argentina Page 2 of 5

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.

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.

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.

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