Before you know it you are no longer young, and by the way, while you were thinking about other things, the world was changing—and then, just as suddenly you realize that 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—but the birthday came and went without much ado. It was only months later, while having a somewhat banal conversation with his wife about the phases of the moon, that he realized how little he really knows about his life. In Birthday Aira searches for the events that were significant to him during his first fifty years. Between anecdotes ,and memories, the author ponders the origins of his personal truths, and meditates on literature meant as much for the writer as for the reader, on ignorance, knowledge, and death. Finally, Birthday is a little sad, in a serene, crystal-clear kind of way, which makes it even more irresistible.
The book begins with an anecdote about a conversation the author had with his wife, in which it’s revealed that he doesn’t understand what causes the phases of the moon. This revelation of ignorance quickly cascades into a series of reflections on not-knowing, and on the reciprocal relationship between the swiftness of time, which ensures that we can’t know everything, and our discontinuous experience of time, which make knowledge feel as disjointed as memory.
It’s a slim but thoughtful affair, punctuated by numerous bons mots, acidic self-deprecation, and cutting observations about the world around him…rife with keen observations about passers-by, notes about the author’s unique style and why it changed over time, and ruminations on how the author has dealt with the inscrutable eventualities of aging.
Triggered by the Argentine author’s 50th birthday, this is his meditation, in a series of short chapters, on the events that made up his half century of life.
—The New York Times
The ostensible simplicity of the volume carries powerful and incisive ideas about life and aging.