César Aira

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, in 2002 he was short listed for the Rómulo Gallegos prize, and has been shortlisted for the Man Booker International Prize.


Fiction by César Aira

Translated by Chris Andrews

Soon enough you realize that you are no longer twenty years old, because right away you are no longer young … and by the way, while you were thinking about other things, the world was also changing. And then, just as suddenly, you are fifty years old. Aira had anticipated his fiftieth—a time when he would not so much recall years past as look forward to what lies ahead—and yet that birthday came and went without much ado.…
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The Linden Tree

Fiction by César Aira

Translated from the Spanish by Chris Andrews

A delightful fictional memoir about César Aira’s small hometown. The narrator, born the same year and now living in the same great city (Buenos Aires) as César Aira, could be the author himself. Beginning with his parents—an enigmatic handsome black father who gathered linden flowers for his sleep-inducing tea and an irrational, crippled mother of European descent—the narrator catalogs memories of his childhood: his friends, his peculiar first job, his many gossiping neighbors, and the landscape and architecture of the provinces.…
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The Little Buddhist Monk & The Proof

Fiction by César Aira

Translated from the Spanish by Nick Caistor

The Little Buddhist Monk is a story of Asian invention gone wild, as a diminutive Korean Buddhist monk acts as a tour guide to an increasingly distraught French couple on a working vacation in the Far East. The Proof brings us quickly back to the West, where two punks, plus a new recruit (“Wannafuck?”is the opening line as the two punk lesbians accost the chubby and shy Marcia on a quiet street in Buenos Aires), take control of a local supermarket with dire consequences for the hostages.…
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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. There she takes on a succession of lovers among the soldiers and Indians, before launching a grand and brave business— an enterprise never before conceived—there in the wilds.…
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Fiction by César Aira

Translated from the Spanish 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.…
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Fiction by César Aira

Translated from the Spanish 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!…
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Fiction by César Aira

Translated from the Spanish 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.…
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The Hare

Fiction by César Aira

Translated from the Spanish 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.…
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The Miracle Cures of Dr. Aira

Fiction by César Aira

Translated from the Spanish 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.…
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Fiction by César Aira

Translated from the Spanish 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.…
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The Seamstress and the Wind

Fiction by César Aira

Translated from the Spanish 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.…
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The Literary Conference

Fiction by César Aira

Translated from the Spanish 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.…
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Fiction by César Aira

Translated from the Spanish 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.
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How I Became a Nun

Fiction by César Aira

Translated from the Spanish 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.…
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An Episode in the Life of a Landscape Painter

Fiction by César Aira

Translated from the Spanish 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.…
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Aira’s work is varied and extensive, but The Linden Tree may be one of its best points of entry, affirming the existence of a Latin American literature that refuses to conform to the conventions and stereotypes of magical realism, social realism or other clichés about fiction from this part of the globe.

New York Times

Playing with recycled images, stretching tired tropes until they deform, Aira is fascinated by how defining and describing reality, however absurdly, can end up creating a new reality in that image.


New novellas from Aira are always a cause for celebration.

—Brian Evenson

With many prolific writers it’s a case of diminishing returns. César Aira, who’s published over eighty books with more to come, is an exception, his open-ended, genre trespassing novellas attesting to his peculiar virtuosity.

—John Madera, Big Other

Ema, the Captive creates a world that boldly asks us to rebel against convention, while seeking alternative avenues of thought.”


Aira’s crossings (of temporality, genre, aesthetic language) are always surprising, captivating; they make us seek out formulas to describe their effects. Critics try to do so constantly. But Aira is always moving on to some other place, safe from any category.


A first reaction to this virtuosic confection is to delight in its cascade of images and the sheer craziness of a roller-coaster sequence of events that all seem so plausible. César Aira, an Argentine writer of fiction and literary criticism, is the obvious heir to Jorge Luis Borges. Along with a daring sense of fun, Aira has a playful imagination and the ability to spin a yarn as intricate as a spider’s web.

—Eileen Battersby, The Irish Times

César Aira is the undisputed master of the short philosophical novel—and he manages to churn out a new one every few years. Like all of his books, Ema the Captive is an ideal place to start reading Aira. This story of an Argentinian woman’s time as a captive concubine is a powerful novel worth reading ASAP.

—Lucas Iberico Lozada, Paste Magazine

Aira’s novel delivers a truly unique contribution to literature.

—Diego Baez, Booklist

Aira’s literature is but a parody of inventiveness, and at its core is an amazing degree of penetrating and unrelenting critical reflexivity.

—Nicolás Guagnini, Artforum

His novels are eccentric clones of reality, where the lights are brighter, the picture is sharper and everything happens at the speed of thought…. You don’t know where you are or what you are looking at, but the air is full of electricity.

The Millions

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

Aira has crafted a beautiful, unclassifiable, funny, and deeply unsettling book.

—Sebastian Boensch, The Miami Rail

The Argentine writer so niftily makes metaphysical Frisbees of the stories in this collection they seem to take flight by the power of whimsy alone.

The Boston Globe

Dinner is far more intelligent than your average zombie tale…Aira adds extra depth to what lies just beneath the surface.

—Jessica Loudis, The Times Literary Supplement

The stories here do have a life of their own, and it is a life offering much surprise, much humor, much brilliance of observation and invention, but little in the way of even momentary consolation. They summon up a genie who can do everything but fulfill our wishes.

—Geoffrey O’Brien, NYRB

Aira will put knots in your brain.

—Ben Raitliff, The New York Times Book Review

Everything in Aira has that Mad Scientist feel to it

—The Millions

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

—Rivka Galchen, Harper’s

César Aira is an exquisite miniaturist who toys with avant-garde techniques.

The Wall Street Journal

Outlandish B-movie fantasies are all part of the game. His best-known works are nonsensically hysterical.

—Marcela Valdez, NPR Books

Utterly astonishing.

San Francisco Chronicle

I get so absorbed by an Aira novel that upon finishing I don’t remember anything. It’s like having a complex cinematic dream that dissipates upon awakening.

—Patti Smith

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

Here’s my request [to New Directions]: give us something written on this side of the 20th century – after Argentina experienced its 2001 economic collapse … I want to see Aira process a society unhinged and chaotic – you know, like ours is right now. My suggestion: Shantytown, an absurdist rending of life in a downtown Buenos Aires Hooverville.

—Joey Rubin, The Argentina Independent

A strange and arresting novel. Aira is firmly in the tradition of Borges and W.G. Sebald, those great late modernists for whom fiction was a theater of ideas.

—Mark Doty, Los Angeles Times

What makes Episode so astonishing is the language as translated from the Spanish by Chris Andrews. Not from Aira do we get the Borges soft shoe. We get instead a supercharged Céline, writing with a Star Wars laser sword, turning Don Quixote into Picasso.

—John Leonard, Harper’s

Aira is one of the most provocative and idiosyncratic novelists working in Spanish today, and should not be missed.

—Natasha Wimmer, The New York Times

To love the novels of César Aira you must have a taste for the absurd, a tolerance for the obscurely philosophical, and a willingness to laugh out loud against your better judgment.

—Marcela Valdes, NPR Reviews

Depending on how you read it, this is either a taut noir crime novel or a searing portrait of Buenos Aires’ poverty-stricken people. Either way, it’s compelling stuff.


Aira’s literary significance, like that of many other science fiction writers, comes from how he pushes us to question the porous line between fact and fantasy, to see it not only as malleable in history, but also blurred in the everyday. The engrossing power of his work, though, comes from how he carries out these feats: with the inexhaustible energy and pleasure of a child chasing after imaginary enemies in the park.

Los Angeles Review of Books

The novel moves erratically, never quite landing where you think, and as mysterious subplot after subplot is introduced, one may be forgiven for suspecting that Aira is playing a joke at the expense of the reader, but in his masterful hands, ambiguity eventually builds to order, mystery to revelation, and every digression turns out to have a purpose.

Publishers Weekly

Aira’s refusal to make any occurrence definitive gives the world depicted in the novel an element of the absurd. The result can be as frustrating as it is liberating. Whether or not Clarke ultimately catches sight of the hare is beside the point. Even if he found it, we’d soon discover that, maybe, after all, he didn’t. Or that it wasn’t a hare at all.

The Daily Beast

You’ll find there are few adventures more outrageous, and more unsettling, than this cowboy chase through the pampas in search of the white rabbit.

—Marcela Valdes, NPR

César Aira’s is a fine short book, imaginative and entertaining, but finally and essentially, it’s not about the size, it’s about the transmogrified truths, the art of the prose and its necessity.


César Aira’s novels are the narrative equivalent of the Exquisite Corpse, that Surrealist parlor game in which players add to drawings or stories without knowledge of previous or subsequent additions. Wildly heterogeneous elements are thrown together, and the final result never fails to surprise and amuse.

The Millions

The book is structured around a series of chance encounters, while also giving Aira some asides on broader concepts like the nature of perception, the promises of narrative form, and human thought.

Publishers Weekly

Each element Aira draws our attention to is placed into sharp focus before being discussed in short, entertaining digressions.

The National

In plain but meandering prose, Aira winds his off-kilter narrative into a metafictional loop in which Varamo, who has never written before, accidentally crafts a literary masterpiece.

Critical Mob

Aira’s humorous writing style is absurd yet always ironic, simple in logic yet increasingly mystifying in message.

The Harvard Crimson

…a sprint through multiple bizarre situations, a few philosophical digressions, a charming light-heartedness, and exquisite sentences.

The Rumpus

Varamo, like all the Aira books in translation, is charming and infuriating, built of plain prose that blooms without warning into carbuncular visions;

—Ben Ratliff, The New York Times

The book teems with delightful, off-the-cuff metaphysical speculation.

—Giles harvey, The New Yorker

The eccentricity of plot here is its own pleasure, but the slow, carefully written digressions it enfolds are what make the work such extravagant fun.

The Coffin Factory

An Episode in the Life of a Landscape Painter’s mere 87 pages are so multi-faceted and transporting and I get so absorbed that upon finishing I don’t remember anything. Like having a complex cinematic dream that dissipates upon awakening.

—Patti Smith, The New York Times Book Review

Aira is a manifestly gifted writer who may find writing all too easy a job.

—*Quarterly Conversation *

If there is one contemporary writer who defies classification, it is César Aira.

—Roberto Bolaño

Once you’ve started reading Aira, you don’t want to stop.

—Roberto Bolaño

Aira is one of the most provocative and idiosyncratic novelists working in Spanish today and should not be missed.

—Natasha Wimmer, The New York Times
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