Sunday, November 24, 2013

César Aira and the New Mysteries of Buenos Aires

By Hector Tobar LA Times' Jacket Copy | Posted Sunday, Nov. 24, 2013, at 11:55 a.m. ET.


The Argentine writer César Aira is a master of dark and forgotten places. Like his late countryman Jorge Luis Borges, he writes narratives that feel like fables. At a slim 128 pages, "Shantytown" recounts a story set in a slum, or "villa miseria," as they're known in Artentina. 

I lived within earshot of such a Buenos Aires shantytown not long after Aira originally published this novel in 1998. (It's taken all of 15 years for a publishing house in the U.S. to finally translate it.) Tropical music blared from the shantytown's homes, which remained largely invisible to me, hidden by a ridge and tall grasses, even though it was a mere 100 yards or so away ...

In this book, Aira plays with the sense of the slum-dwellers' invisibility. The plot, part urban philosophical meditation, part noir thriller, revolves around one man's attempt to see the slum with his own eyes. In the process, the author creates a haunting narrative in which layers of truth are gradually and absurdly revealed.  

Read more at Los Angeles Times

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