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Ema, the Captive

by César Aira

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Aira’s works are dense, unpredictable confections delivered in a plain, stealthily lyrical style capable of accommodating his fondness for mixing metaphysics, realism, pulp fiction, and Dadaist incongruities.

—Michael Greenberg, The New York Review of Books

Ema, the Captive, César Aira’s second novel, is perhaps closest in style to his popular Episode in the Life of a Landscape Painter and The Hare


Ema, the Captive

Fiction by César Aira

translated from the Spanish by Chris Andrews

In nineteenth-century Argentina, Ema, a delicate woman of indeterminate origins, is captured by soldiers and taken, along with her newborn babe, to live as a concubine in a crude fort on the very edges of civilization. The trip is appalling (deprivations and rapes prevail along the way), yet the real story commences once Ema arrives at the fort, where she takes on a succession of lovers among the soldiers and Indians, leading to a brave and grand entrepreneurial experiment. As is usual with Aira’s work, the wonder of the book is in the details of customs, beauty, and language, and the curious, perplexing reality of human nature.

published December 6th, 2016