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Monday, 19 March 2012

Cesar Aira does it again

Cesar Aira is, to put things simply, a marvellous mystery, continually producing fascinating and unclassifiable works of fiction. Varamo, his latest New Directions Press contribution, is a novella that purports to tell the non-fiction story of the origins of Latin America's most famous poem, The Song of the Virgin Boy, but is, among other things, a meditation on poetic inspiration, artistic brilliance, and our need to find national/historical/sociopolitical/psychological context for literary artworks. Those other things that Varamo are: very easy to read, unexpectedly witty, and highly observant.


From the New Yorker:
"Varamo looks like a work of lit crit, but the object of study is purely fictive. One day, the title character, a government clerk, is paid in counterfeit bills. The mistake sets off a series of events -- including a noble but ill-fated attempt to embalm a fish -- that culminate in his writing an avant-garde poetic masterpiece in a single night, despite having no prior literary avocation. Aira's prose can be slapdash, but the book teems with delightful, off-the-cuff metaphysical speculation, as when we learn of Varamo's "superstitious fear of the instant, that tiny hole through which all the time available to human beings must pass."

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