Storybook ND series

The Famous Magician by Cesar Aira, translated by Chris Andrews, is my favourite of the new books. Aira is the ludicrously prolific Argentinian author of over a hundred short books that invariably come apart while somehow keeping their shape.Rules are established before being merrily violated, ho-hum personal accounts become far-fetched zombie stories, serious literary rumination gives way to comic book pastiche. The method appears to have been working: the results have been books that don’t read like the ones you encounter in life but the kind you might pick up in dreams.
—J.W. McCormack, The New Left Review

A writer is offered a devil’s bargain: will he give up reading books in exchange for total world domination?

The Famous Magician

Fiction by César Aira

Translated from the Spanish by Chris Andrews

A certain writer (“past sixty, enjoying ‘a certain renown’”) strolls through the old book market in a Buenos Aires park: “My Sunday walk through the market, repeated over so many years, was part of my general fantasizing about books.” Unfortunately, he is suffering from writer’s block. However, that proves to be the least of our hero’s problems. In the market, he fails to avoid the insufferable boor Ovando—“a complete loser” but a “man supremely full of himself: Conceit was never less justified.” And yet, is Ovando a master magician? Can he turn sugar cubes into pure gold? And can our protagonist decline the offer Ovando proposes granting him absolute power if the writer never in his life reads another book? And is his publisher also a great magician? And the writer’s wife?

Only César Aira could have cooked up this witch’s potion (and only he would plop in phantom Mont Blanc pens as well as fearsome crocodiles from the banks of the Nile)—a brew bubbling over with the question: where does literature end and magic begin?

Buy from:

Clothbound (published September 27, 2022)

ISBN
9780811228893
Price US
17.95
Trim Size
6.5x9
Page Count
48

Ebook

ISBN
9780811228909

César Aira

Argentine author

The Famous Magician by Cesar Aira, translated by Chris Andrews, is my favourite of the new books. Aira is the ludicrously prolific Argentinian author of over a hundred short books that invariably come apart while somehow keeping their shape.Rules are established before being merrily violated, ho-hum personal accounts become far-fetched zombie stories, serious literary rumination gives way to comic book pastiche. The method appears to have been working: the results have been books that don’t read like the ones you encounter in life but the kind you might pick up in dreams.
—J.W. McCormack, The New Left Review
Aira, the Argentine master of a certain strain of unabashedly self-reflexive novella that frequently marries the ingratiating confidence of fabulism with postmodern panache, has offered his audience a wicked little piece of literary wish-fulfillment gone happily awry.
—Roberto Ontiveros, Texas Observer
As so often with Aira, it’s a ride that veers between the realistic and the surreal, with a precision of description and analysis in the narrator’s deliberation that neatly makes even the far-fetched seem possibly almost normal. The narrator’s struggle, of what kind of future to embrace, of where to go with his life, and his contemplating a life without the Literature that has so long been an integral part of him is, of course, particularly appealing to those who engage with Literature with similar enthusiasm, as writers and especially as readers. It’s a fun little work, easily enjoyed at a single go—and quite a powerful gulp at that.
Complete Review
When we careen from semi-serious discussions of the nature of Literature to pulpy genre fiction, or from flâneurist ramblings to mock art criticism, it gives us, as readers, a chance to answer the same question posed to Aira’s narrator: Would you like to live in the world of reality, where the only magic is the substitution of one object for another—a substitution that lies at the heart of capitalism (here manifested under the guise of Ovando’s bookselling)? Or would you prefer to live in the world of Literature, where transformation is an endlessly unfolding process that can lead you from one adventure to another—all without any need for logic, consistency, or any of the other limitations of reality?
Ancillary Review of Books
Aira’s short books are the literary equivalent of a Périgord black truffle — small, rich delicacies worth savoring and contemplating.
Polygon
A writer’s future hangs in the balance when he is tempted by an “unexpected Mephistopheles” in Aira’s playful, self-reflexive latest…the story’s driving question of choosing a meaningful course for one’s life is timeless.
Publishers Weekly
Aira’s cubist eye sees from every angle.
—Patti Smith, The New York Times Book Review
Aira’s works are like slim cabinets of wonder, full of unlikely juxtapositions. His unpredictability is masterful.
—Rivka Galchen, Harper’s