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.
—John Madera, Big Other
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.
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.
—Eileen Battersby, The Irish Times
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.
—Lucas Iberico Lozada, Paste Magazine
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.
—Diego Baez, Booklist
Aira’s novel delivers a truly unique contribution to literature.
—Nicolás Guagnini, Artforum
Aira’s literature is but a parody of inventiveness, and at its core is an amazing degree of penetrating and unrelenting critical reflexivity.
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.
—Michael Greenberg, The New York Review of Books
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.
—Sebastian Boensch, The Miami Rail
Aira has crafted a beautiful, unclassifiable, funny, and deeply unsettling book.
—The Boston Globe
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.
—Jessica Loudis, The Times Literary Supplement
Dinner is far more intelligent than your average zombie tale…Aira adds extra depth to what lies just beneath the surface.
—Geoffrey O’Brien, NYRB
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.
—Ben Raitliff, The New York Times Book Review
Aira will put knots in your brain.
Everything in Aira has that Mad Scientist feel to it
—Rivka Galchen, Harper’s
Aira’s works are like slim cabinets of wonder, full of unlikely juxtapositions. His unpredictability is masterful.
—The Wall Street Journal
César Aira is an exquisite miniaturist who toys with avant-garde techniques.
—Marcela Valdez, NPR Books
Outlandish B-movie fantasies are all part of the game. His best-known works are nonsensically hysterical.
—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.
—Michael Greenberg, The New York Review of Books
Dense, unpredictable confections delivered in a plain, stealthily lyrical style capable of accommodating his fondness for mixing metaphysics, realism, pulp fiction, and Dadaist incongruities.
—Joey Rubin, The Argentina Independent
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.
—Mark Doty, Los Angeles Times
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.
—John Leonard, Harper’s
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.
—Natasha Wimmer, The New York Times
Aira is one of the most provocative and idiosyncratic novelists working in Spanish today, and should not be missed.
—Marcela Valdes, NPR Reviews
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.
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.
—Los Angeles Review of Books
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.
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.
—The Daily Beast
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.
—Marcela Valdes, NPR
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.
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 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.
Each element Aira draws our attention to is placed into sharp focus before being discussed in short, entertaining digressions.
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.
—The Harvard Crimson
Aira’s humorous writing style is absurd yet always ironic, simple in logic yet increasingly mystifying in message.
…a sprint through multiple bizarre situations, a few philosophical digressions, a charming light-heartedness, and exquisite sentences.
—Ben Ratliff, The New York Times
Varamo, like all the Aira books in translation, is charming and infuriating, built of plain prose that blooms without warning into carbuncular visions;
—Giles harvey, The New Yorker
The book teems with delightful, off-the-cuff metaphysical speculation.
—The Coffin Factory
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.
—Patti Smith, The New York Times Book Review
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.
—*Quarterly Conversation *
Aira is a manifestly gifted writer who may find writing all too easy a job.
—Natasha Wimmer, The New York Times
Aira is one of the most provocative and idiosyncratic novelists working in Spanish today and should not be missed.