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Chris Andrews has played a key role in bringing one of the Spanish language’s major 20th-century voices to American readers.

—Scott Bryan Wilson , The Quarterly Conversation

Chris Andrews

Spanish translator

Chris Andrews was born in Newcastle, Australia, in 1962. He studied at the University of Melbourne and taught there, in the French program, from 1995 to 2008. He is now teaching at the University of Western Sydney, where he is a member of the Writing and Society Research Center. As well as translating books by Roberto Bolaño and César Aira for New Directions, he has published a critical study (Poetry and Cosmogony: Science in the Writing of Queneau and Ponge, Rodopi, 1999) and a collection of poems (Cut Lunch, Indigo, 2002).


The Secret of Evil

Fiction by Roberto Bolaño

translated by Chris Andrews and Natasha Wimmer

Opening this book is like being granted access to the Chilean master's personal files. Included in this one-of-a-kind collection is everything Roberto Bolaño was working on just before his death in 2003, and everything that he wanted to share with his readers. Fans of his writing will find familiar characters in new settings, and entirely new stories and styles, too.

A North American journalist in Paris is woken at 4 a.m. by a mysterious caller with urgent information. For V. S. Naipaul, the prevalence of sodomy in Argentina is a symptom of the nation’s political ills. Daniela de Montecristo (of Nazi Literature in the Americas and 2666) recounts the loss of her virginity. Arturo Belano — Bolaño’s alter ego — returns to Mexico City and meets a band called The Asshole of Morelos. Belano’s son Gerónimo disappears in Berlin during the Days of Chaos in 2005. Memories of a return to the native land. Argentine writers as gangsters. Zombie schlock as allegory…



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.



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 Insufferable Gaucho

Fiction by Roberto Bolaño

translated by Chris Andrews

As Pankaj Mishra remarked in The Nation, one of the remarkable qualities of Bolaño’s short stories is that they can do the "work of a novel." The Insufferable Gaucho contains tales bent on returning to haunt you. Unpredictable and daring, highly controlled yet somehow haywire, a Bolaño story might concern an elusive plagiarist or an elderly lawyer giving up city life for an improbable return to the family estate, now gone to wrack and ruin. Bolaño’s stories have been applauded as "bleakly luminous and perfectly calibrated" (Publishers Weekly) and "complex and provocative (International Herald Tribune), and as Francine Prose said in The New York Times Book Review, "something extraordinarily beautiful and (at least to me) entirely new." Two fascinating essays are also included.



The Return

Fiction by Roberto Bolaño

translated by Chris Andrews

As Pankaj Mishra remarked in The Nation, one of the remarkable qualities of Bolaño’s short stories is that they can do the "work of a novel." The Return contains thirteen unforgettable stories bent on returning to haunt you. Wide-ranging, suggestive, and daring, a Bolaño story might concern the unexpected fate of a beautiful ex-girlfriend or a dream of meeting Enrique Lihn: his plots go anywhere and everywhere and they always surprise. Consider the title piece: a young party animal collapses in a Parisian disco and dies on the dance floor; just as his soul is departing his body, it realizes strange doings are afoot––and what follows next defies the imagination (except Bolaño’s own).



Monsieur Pain

Fiction by Roberto Bolaño

translated by Chris Andrews

Paris, 1938. The Peruvian poet César Vallejo is in the hospital, afflicted with an undiagnosed illness, and unable to stop hiccuping. His wife calls on an acquaintance of her friend Madame Reynaud: the Mesmerist Pierre Pain. Pain, a timid bachelor, is in love with the widow Reynaud, and agrees to help. But two mysterious Spanish men follow Pain and bribe him not to treat Vallejo, and Pain takes the money. Ravaged by guilt and anxiety, however, he does not intend to abandon his new patient, but then Pain’s access to the hospital is barred and Madame Reynaud leaves Paris.... Another practioner of the occult sciences enters the story (working for Franco, using his Mesmeric expertise to interrogate prisoners)—as do Mme. Curie, tarot cards, an assassination, and nightmares. Meanwhile, Monsieur Pain, haunted and guilty, wanders the crepuscular, rainy streets of Paris...



Nazi Literature in the Americas

Fiction by Roberto Bolaño

translated by Chris Andrews

Nazi Literature in the Americas was the first of Roberto Bolaño’s books to reach a wide public. When it was published by Seix Barral in 1996, critics in Spain were quick to recognize the arrival of an important new talent. The book presents itself as a biographical dictionary of American writers who flirted with or espoused extreme right-wing ideologies in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. It is a tour de force of black humor and imaginary erudition. Nazi Literature in the Americas is composed of short biographies, including descriptions of the writers’ works, plus an epilogue ("for Monsters"), which includes even briefer biographies of persons mentioned in passing. All of the writers are imaginary, although they are all carefully and credibly situated in real literary worlds. Ernesto Pérez Masón, for example, in the sample included here, is an imaginary member of the real Orígenes group in Cuba, and his farcical clashes with José Lezama Lima recall stories about the spats between Lezama Lima and Virgilio Piñera, as recounted in Guillermo Cabrera Infante’s Mea Cuba. The origins of the imaginary writers are diverse. Authors from twelve different countries are included. The countries with the most representatives are Argentina (8) and the USA (7).



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.



Amulet

Fiction by Roberto Bolaño

translated by Chris Andrews

Amulet is a monologue, like Bolaño’s acclaimed debut in English, By Night in Chile. The speaker is Auxilio Lacouture, a Uruguayan woman who moved to Mexico in the 1960s, becoming the "Mother of Mexican Poetry," hanging out with the young poets in the cafés and bars of the University. She’s tall, thin, and blonde, and her favorite young poet in the 1970s is none other than Arturo Belano (Bolaño’s fictional stand-in throughout his books). As well as her young poets, Auxilio recalls three remarkable women: the melancholic young philosopher Elena, the exiled Catalan painter Remedios Varo, and Lilian Serpas, a poet who once slept with Che Guevara. And in the course of her imaginary visit to the house of Remedios Varo, Auxilio sees an uncanny landscape, a kind of chasm. This chasm reappears in a vision at the end of the book: an army of children is marching toward it, singing as they go. The children are the idealistic young Latin Americans who came to maturity in the ’70s, and the last words of the novel are: "And that song is our amulet."



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.



Distant Star

Fiction by Roberto Bolaño

translated by Chris Andrews

The star of Roberto Bolaño’s hair-raising novel Distant Star is Alberto Ruiz-Tagle, an air force pilot who exploits the 1973 coup to launch his own version of the New Chilean Poetry, a multi-media enterprise involving sky-writing, poetry, torture, and photo exhibitions. For our unnamed narrator, who first encounters this "star" in a college poetry workshop, Ruiz-Tagle becomes the silent hand behind every evil act in the darkness of Pinochet’s regime. The narrator, unable to stop himself, tries to track Ruiz-Tagle down, and see signs of his activity over and over again. A corrosive, mocking humor sparkles within Bolaño’s darkest visions of Chile under Pinochet. In Bolaño’s world there’s a big graveyard and there’s a big graveyard laugh. (He once described his novel By Night in Chile as "a tale of terror, a situation comedy, and a combination pastoral-gothic novel.") Many Chilean authors have written about the "bloody events of the early Pinochet years, the abductions and murders," Richard Eder commented in The New York Times: "None has done it in so dark and glittering a fashion as Roberto Bolaño."



By Night in Chile

Fiction by Roberto Bolaño

translated by Chris Andrews

By Night in Chile’s single night-long rant provides — as through a crack in the wall — a terrifying, clandestine view of the strange bedfellows of Church and State in Chile. This wild, eerily compact novel — Roberto Bolaño’s first work available in English––recounts the tale of a poor boy who wanted to be a poet, but ends up a Jesuit priest and a conservative literary critic, a lap dog to Chile’s rich and powerful cultural elite, by whose favors he meets Pablo Neruda and Ernst Jünger. Father Urrutia is offered a tour of Europe by agents of Opus Dei (to study "the disintegration of the churches," a journey into realms of the surreal); and ensnared by this plum, he is next assigned — after the destruction of Allende — a secret, never-to-be-disclosed nighttime job involving Pinochet. Soon, searingly, Father Urrutia’s memories go from bad to worse.



The Skating Rink

Fiction by Roberto Bolaño

translated by Chris Andrews

Set in the seaside town of Z, on the Costa Brava, north of Barcelona, The Skating Rink oscillates between two poles: a camp ground and a ruined mansion, the Palacio Benvingut. The story, told by three male narrators, revolves around a beautiful figure skating champion, Nuria Martí. When she is suddenly dropped from the Olympic team, a pompous but besotted civil servant secretly builds a skating rink in the ruined Palacio Benvingut, using public funds. But Nuria has affairs, provokes jealousy, and the skating rink becomes a crime scene. A mysterious pair of women, an ex-opera singer and a taciturn girl often armed with a knife, turn up as well. A complex book, The Skating Rink’s short chapters are skillfully broken off with questions to maintain the narrative tension: Who was murdered? Who was the murderer? Will the murderer be caught? All of these questions are answered, and yet The Skating Rink is not fundamentally a crime novel, or not exclusively; it’s also about political corruption, sex, the experience of immigration, and frustrated passion. And it’s an atmospheric chronicle of one summer season in a seaside town, with its vacationers, its drifters, its businessmen, bureaucrats and social workers.


Available: January 09 2001