César Aira: Las aventuras de Barbaverde [The Adventures of Barbaverde]


The latest addition to my website is César Aira‘s Las aventuras de Barbaverde [The Adventures of Barbaverde]. Yes, I am afraid yet another novel in Spanish that has not been translated into English (and many more to come, I regret.) This is now the eighth of his works that I have read, four of which have not yet been translated into English though he is so prolific, it must be hard for the translators and publishers to keep up. This one was something of a disappointment, compared to his usual works. It is a parody of the superhero/science fiction novel, featuring a superhero called Barbaverde (= Green Beard) who is barely seen in the novel, fighting his implacable foe, Frasca (who is also barely seen). There are four separate stories in the book and the main character is a rather naive journalists called Aldo Sabor from Rosario in Argentina, who is in love with an installation artist, Karina, and who inadvertently assists Barbaverde in saving the world. Aira mocks the genre but it also gets rather silly as we see a giant fish hovering over Rosario, toy soldiers that come to life and an attempt to destroy the present, leaving only the future and the past. It is still worthwhile reading, as is anything by Aira but not his best.

César Aira


The most recent additions to my website are two César Aira novels. I continue to be amazed by everything I read of his. Varamo (Varamo), which has been translated into English, is a novel about a low level Panamanian civil servant who goes home one evening and, though he has never written, indeed, never even read a single line of poetry, writes, without correction, one of the (fictitious) classics of Central American poetry. As this Aira, lots of other things happen in the space of a fairly short novel, involving forged money, embalming, a possible revolution, the smuggling of golf clubs, pirate publishing and the hearing of voices.


Las noches de Flores [The Nights of Flores], sadly, has yet to be published in English (though it has been translated into several other languages). It tells the story of a pizza delivery service in the Flores suburb of Buenos Aires. It starts off fairly low key, with the account of an elderly couple who work for the service, delivering on foot, as well as stories of some of the young men who work for the service. In particular, there is a kidnapping and murder of a delivery driver. Suddenly, the novel explodes, as a massive conspiracy is revealed and all hell breaks loose. This, like the other six Aira novels I have read, only confirms Aira as one of the leading novelists of the age.

Andrés Neuman: El viajero del siglo (Traveller of the Century)

I am continuing my reading of Spanish-language novels. The latest addition to my website is Andrés Neuman‘s El viajero del siglo (Traveller of the Century) though, unlike the previous two, it has been translated into English and well reviewed. Though I did enjoy it, I don’t think it quite lived up to the reputation it has, not least because much of the novel consists of interminable discussions between the main characters on a variety of topics. It is set in the early-mid nineteenth century so discussions of contemporary literature, art, politics, religion, philosophy and other topics occupy these characters. Though they do discuss these topics from a contemporary viewpoint, they also seem to, now and then, to have a twenty-first century sensibility. I also wonder if the sexual fantasies of Latin American male novelists do not sometimes get the better of them. Would a mid-nineteenth century, well-brought-up, upper middle class young German woman really jump into bed with a man the first opportunity she gets? Would she discuss the twisty penises she has seen? Similarly, would a 1990s very religious Argentinian woman, who was opposed to sex before marriage, perform oral sex on a man she had just met, as happened in the Benesdra novel? I have my doubts.

Benesdra and Chirbes

The two latest books to appear on my website are Salvador Benesdra‘s El traductor [The Translator] and Rafael ChirbesLa larga marcha [The Long March]. Sadly, neither is available in English. El traductor [The Translator] was only published after Benesdra killed himself in 1996 and then only by a small publisher, with a subsidy from his family. It has been very difficult to obtain a copy and has become something of a cult novel. It has only just been republished in Argentina, though is still difficult to obtain outside Argentina. It has yet to be translated into any other language. It is to be hoped that some worthy publisher will now publish it in English, as it really is an interesting work, though it is more likely to be translated into some other language.

I seem to have been reading a lot of books published in Spanish recently – the book I am currently reading is an Argentinian novel – and I note that Chirbes is the twentieth Spanish author to appear on my website. There are many more to come. As with the Benesdra, this book has not been translated into English but has been translated into several other languages. As far as I can tell, only one of his books has been translated into English and, as you can see from the link, it was not particularly well received. This is the first of his that I have read and I shall be reading a couple more shortly but I suspect that, like all too many Spanish writers, Chirbes is going to remain largely untranslated into English and therefore unknown to the English-speaking world. However, if you do read Spanish, it is the Benesdra that I would particularly recommend – if you can get hold of a copy.