Tag Archives: Argentina

Landscape as Character, Characters at a Distance: ‘Ema, the Captive’ by César Aira

César Aira’s books often shrug off the shackles of genre, tradition, structure, or sense. They’re also often short. Usually around 100 pages, these novellas are complete in and of themselves. However, readers will most likely leave an Aira text in a completely different mental state than from the one they entered with—such is the challenge and the pleasure of reading him. Aira’s latest book, Ema, the Captive (128 pages; New Directions; translated by Chris Andrews), is fairly straightforward in substance and story. A 19th-century Western set in Argentina is probably the most succinct way to describe it but to box this book …Continue reading

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When the Only Escape Is Through Fantasy: ‘The Seven Madmen’ by Roberto Arlt

Roberto Arlt’s The Seven Madmen (New York Review Books, 272 pages; translated by Nick Caistor) is a thriller, a crime drama, a dystopian revolution novel, a metafictional meditation, a tragic romance, and a revenge tale all in one. Julio Cortazar, who provides the introduction in the New York Review Books edition, is correct in saying Arlt’s novel throws off any “literariness”—its schizophrenic characters and arrangement are too emotionally raw, too erratic in theme and direction for it to be a “traditional” novel, especially for when it was written in 1929. (Some of the novel’s formal choices, such as the use …Continue reading

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It All Comes Down to a Walk in the Park: Sergio Chejfec’s ‘My Two Worlds’

My faith in reading — shattered by texting, an increasingly illiterate America, and The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills — has been restored by a book about a walk in the park. Sergio Chejfec‘s My Two Worlds (Open Letter Books; 120 pages), translated by Margaret B. Carson, concerns itself with one walk in one park: a green expanse in the unnamed Brazilian town where Chefjec, a visiting Argentine academic, is attending a literary festival where he imagines himself looking “like a fugitive trying to blend in.” Consulting a map, seeing that green spot, he feels his heart race: “For me …Continue reading

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