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

An astounding novel from Argentina that is a meditation on the beautiful and the grotesque in nature, the art of landscape painting, and one experience in a man’s life that became a lightning rod for inspiration.

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. 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.

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Paperback (published May 1, 2006)

ISBN
9780811216302
Price US
12.95
Price CN
15
Trim Size
5x7
Page Count
96

Ebook (published May 1, 2006)

ISBN
9780811219808
Price US
12.95

César Aira

Argentine author

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

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