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Aira's works are like slim cabinets of wonder, full of unlikely juxtapositions. His unpredictability is masterful.

—Rivka Galchen, Harper's

César Aira

Argentine author

César Aira was born in Coronel Pringles, Argentina in 1949, and has lived in Buenos Aires since 1967. He taught at the University of Buenos Aires (about Copi and Rimbaud) and at the University of Rosario (Constructivism and Mallarmé), and has translated and edited books from France, England, Italy, Brazil, Spain, Mexico, and Venezuela. Perhaps one of the most prolific writers in Argentina, and certainly one of the most talked about in Latin America, Aira has published more than eighty books to date in Argentina, Mexico, Colombia, Venezuela, Chile, and Spain, which have been translated for France, Great Britain, Italy, Brazil, Portugal, Greece, Austria, Romania, Russia, and now the United States. One novel, La prueba, has been made into a feature film, and How I Became a Nun was chosen as one of Argentina’s ten best books. Besides essays and novels Aira writes regularly for the Spanish newspaper El País. In 1996 he received a Guggenheim scholarship, and in 2002 he was short listed for the Rómulo Gallegos prize.


Dinner

Fiction by César Aira

translated by Katherine Silver

One Saturday night a bankrupt bachelor in his sixties and his mother dine with a wealthy friend. They discuss their endlessly connected neighbors. They talk about a mysterious pit that opened up one day, and the old bricklayer who sometimes walked to the cemetery to cheer himself up. Anxious to show off his valuable antiques, the host shows his guests old windup toys and takes them to admire an enormous doll. Back at home, the bachelor decides to watch some late night TV before retiring. The news quickly takes a turn for the worse as, horrified, the newscaster finds herself reporting about the dead rising from their graves, leaving the cemetery, and sucking the blood of the living—all somehow disturbingly reminiscent of the dinner party.


Available: October 06 2015


Conversations

Fiction by César Aira

translated by Katherine Silver

Daily conversations in outdoor cafés with cultured friends can help make reality a little more real. Unfortunately, however, during one such conversation, one man spots a gold Rolex watch on a TV soap opera’s goatherd. This seemingly small absurdity sets off alarms: strange sensations of deception, distress, and incipient madness. The two men’s uneasiness soon becomes a nightmare as the TV adventure advances with a real-life plot — involving a mutant strain of killer algae — to take over the world! Conversations, a reality within a fiction within a parallel reality, is hilariously funny and surprisingly touching.



Shantytown

Fiction by César Aira

translated by Chris Andrews

Maxi — a middle-class, directionless ox of a young man who helps the trash pickers of Buenos Aires’s shantytown — attracts the attention of a corrupt, trigger-happy policeman who will use anyone (including two innocent teenage girls) to break a drug ring that he believes is operating within the slum. A strange new drug, a secret code within a carousel of pirated lights, the kindness of strangers, murder. . . . No matter how serious the subject matter, and despite Aira’s “fascination with urban violence and the sinister underside of Latin American politics” (The Millions), Shantytown, like all of Aira’s mesmerizing work, is filled with wonder and mad invention.



The Hare

Fiction by César Aira

translated by Nick Caistor

Clarke is a nineteenth-century English naturalist who roams the pampas in search of an elusive animal: the Legibrerian hare, whose defining quality seems to be its ability to fly. The local tribesmen, pointing skyward, tell him about recent sightings of the hare, but then they ask Clarke to help them search for their missing chief, as well. On further investigation Clarke finds more than meets the eye: in the Mapuche and Voroga languages every word has at least two meanings.

Witty, very ironic, and with all the usual Airian digressive magic, The Hare offers subtle reflections on love, Victorian-era colonialism, and the many ambiguities of language.



The Miracle Cures of Dr. Aira

Fiction by César Aira

translated by Katherine Silver

Dr. Aira is not a conventional doctor. He has a very special gift for miracles, at least in theory. This has not deterred his archenemy, Dr. Actyn, who is trying to prove that Dr. Aira is a charlatan. When the ever wary Dr. Aira is finally called upon to put his theories into practice and use his healing powers to actually cure a hopelessly sick man, César Aira — the authoritative writer — shows us the truth about miracles in this delightfully awesome book. 



Varamo

Fiction by César Aira

translated by Chris Andrews

Like so many of César Aira’s mesmerizing novels, Varamo springs from a deceptively simple mishap that enables the argentine author to take on some of life’s most intriguing questions through his trademark allegorical wit and humor. Here the titular narrator is a hapless Panamanian government worker who, after being paid with counterfeit money, wanders around the city all night as he frets about what to do next. But that long, odd night also becomes a font of inspiration, and Varamo soon writes what will become the most celebrated masterwork of modern Central American poetry, “The Song of the Virgin Boy.” And even more impressive is the fact that Varamo, at fifty years old, “hadn’t previously written one sole verse, nor had it ever occurred to him to write one.” As he does so well, Aira uses Varamo’s story of overnight success and fame to investigate what it means to be a poet, to be inspired, to be touched by genius. And from yet another viewpoint, he explores what it is that drives readers and critics to construct historical, national, psychological, and aesthetic contexts for works of art.



The Seamstress and the Wind

Fiction by César Aira

translated by Rosalie Knecht

The Seamstress and the Wind is a deliciously laugh-out-loud-funny novel. A seamstress who is sewing a wedding dress for the pregnant local art teacher fears that her son, while playing in a big semitruck, has been accidentally kidnapped and driven off to Patagonia. Completely unhinged, she calls a local taxi to follow the semi in hot pursuit. When her husband finds out what’s happened, he takes off after wife and child. They race not only to the end of the world, but to adventures in desire – where the wild Southern wind falls in love with the seamstress, and a monster child takes up with the truck driver. Interspersed are Aira’s musings about memory and childhood, and his hometown of Coronel Pringles, with a compelling view of the hard lot of this working-class town, situated not far from Buenos Aires.



The Literary Conference

Fiction by César Aira

translated by Katherine Silver

César is a translator who’s fallen on very hard times due to the global economic downturn; he is also an author, and a mad scientist hell-bent on world domination. On a visit to the beach he intuitively solves an ancient riddle, finds a pirate’s treasure, and becomes a very wealthy man. Even so, César’s bid for world domination comes first and so he attends a literary conference to be near the man whose clone he hopes will lead an army to victory: the world-renowned Mexican author, Carlos Fuentes. A comic science fiction fantasy of the first order, The Literary Conference is the perfect vehicle for César Aira’s takeover of literature in the 21st century.



Ghosts

Fiction by César Aira

translated by Chris Andrews

Ghosts is about a construction worker’s family squatting on a building site. They all see large and handsome ghosts around their quarters, but the teenage daughter is the most curious. Her questions about them become more and more heartfelt until the story reaches a critical, chilling moment when the mother realizes that her daughter’s life hangs in the balance.



How I Became a Nun

Fiction by César Aira

translated by Chris Andrews

"My story, the story of ’how I became a nun,’ began very early in my life; I had just turned six. The beginning is marked by a vivid memory, which I can reconstruct down to the last detail. Before, there is nothing, and after, everything is an extension of the same vivid memory, continuous and unbroken, including the intervals of sleep, up to the point where I took the veil...." So starts César Aira’s astounding "autobiographical" novel. Intense and perfect, this invented narrative of childhood experience bristles with dramatic humor at each stage of growing up: a first ice cream, school, reading, games, friendship. The novel begins in Aira’s hometown, Coronel Pringles. As self-awareness grows, the story rushes forward in a torrent of anecdotes which transform a world of uneventful happiness into something else : the anecdote becomes adventure, and adventure, fable, and then legend. Between memory and oblivion, reality and fiction, César Aira’s How I Became a Nun retains childhood’s main treasures: the reality of fable and the delirium of invention. A few days after his fiftieth birthday, César Aira (b. 1949, Argentina) noticed the thin rim of the moon, visible despite the rising sun. When his wife explained the phenomenon to him he was shocked that for fifty years he had known nothing about "something so obvious, so visible." This epiphany led him to write How I Became a Nun. With a subtle and melancholic sense of humor he reflects on his failures, on the meaning of life and the importance of literature.



An Episode in the Life of a Landscape Painter

Fiction by César Aira

translated by Chris Andrews
with a contribution by Roberto Bolaño

An Episode in the Life of a Landscape Painter is the story of a moment in the life of the German artist Johan Moritz Rugendas (1802-1858). Greatly admired as a master landscape painter, he was advised by Alexander von Humboldt to travel West from Europe to record the spectacular landscapes of Chile, Argentina, and Mexico. Rugendas did in fact become one of the best of the nineteenth-century European painters to venture into Latin America. However this is not a biography of Rugendas. This work of fiction weaves an almost surreal history around the secret objective behind Rugendas’ trips to America: to visit Argentina in order to achieve in art the "physiognomic totality" of von Humboldt’s scientific vision of the whole. Rugendas is convinced that only in the mysterious vastness of the immense plains will he find true inspiration. A brief and dramatic visit to Mendoza gives him the chance to fulfill his dream. From there he travels straight out onto the pampas, praying for that impossible moment, which would come only at an immense price—an almost monstrously exorbitant price—that would ultimately challenge his drawing and force him to create a new way of making art. A strange episode that he could not avoid absorbing savagely into his own body interrupts the trip and irreversibly and explosively marks him for life.