The National of Abu Dhabi just published Scott Esposito’s review of El congreso de literatura (The Literary Conference), which was covered here last week. In it, Esposito also makes some interesting observations about what makes Aira’s work so appealing. Here’s a taste:
Aira is indeed an author who loves to keep multiple balls in the air at once, yet he has a way of making his novels feel extemporaneous and fun despite the heavy metaphors and philosophical implications seething out of almost every sentence. Aira writes with what Italo Calvino called “lightness” – a quality the latter held in the highest esteem and which he likened to Perseus (the writer) beheading Medusa (reality) while viewing her through a mirror and standing on the “very lightest of things, the winds and clouds”. Aira is just the kind of writer to assault reality while seeming to dance about around it on a current of nothingness. His wispy books rarely run far beyond 100 pages, and he continually employs an ironic, bemused tone that can turn even the heaviest matters to comedy. His 1993 novel Como me hice monja (translated as How I Became a Nun in 2007) starts with a grotesque episode that, in Aira’s cockeyed telling, becomes outlandishly funny: a father beats an ice cream vendor to death after working himself into a frenzy when he cannot convince his son (named César Aira) to enjoy his first taste of the frozen treat. How I Became a Nun, the quietly surreal story of a young boy growing up in the Argentine provinces, is about as far as you can get from Carlos Fuentes clones and huge marauding worms, which should provide some sense of Aira’s range as a writer.
Sorry. I couldn’t keep the novel’s denouement a secret forever.