Chejfec, Aira in Asymptote

New issue of Asymptote, with some intriguing pieces by Cesar Aira and Sergio Chejfec.

In Aira’s piece, the Argentine pays praise to his literary father, Osvando Lamborghini:

The first publication of Osvaldo Lamborghini (Buenos Aires 1940 – Barcelona 1985), shortly after his thirtieth birthday, was El fiord; it appeared in 1969, but had been written several years before. It was a thin book, and for a long time it was sold in a single bookstore in Buenos Aires via the discreet method of asking for it from the salesperson. Though it was never republished, it traveled over a long road and fulfilled the mission of great books: that of inaugurating a myth.

It proposed, and continues to propose, something extraordinarily new. It anticipated the whole of the political literature of the seventies, but transcended it, rendering it useless. It incorporated the entirety of the Argentine literary tradition, but gave it a new and very distinct nuance. It seemed to bridge two puerilities: one that combined the childish half-language of the gauchesco—the literature of the gauchos—and the officious, cardboard character of our grand men of letters, and another composed of perpetually naïve revolutionary outbursts. Soon we discovered that even Borges, very much in the English vein, had limited himself to literature “for young people.” The only antecedents worth mentioning were Arlt and Gombrowicz. But unlike them, Osvaldo did not take up the problem of immaturity; he seemed to have been born adult. Secret, but not ignored (nobody could ignore him), the author knew glory without ever having the least glimmer of fame. From the very beginning, he was read like a master.

In 1973, his second book appeared, Sebregondi retrocede, a novel that had originally been a book of poems . . .

And Chejfec, well, he does what he always does:

Our first protagonist is Julio Cortázar. He’s been in Buenos Aires for a while now. Two years before, he was living in Bolívar, from where, in a letter, he wrote, “life here makes me picture a man getting crushed by a steam roller.” Within eight months he’ll be teaching in Chivilcoy; he’ll miss Bolívar and will feel like an exile. But for now, in the capital, he’s unsure where his life is taking him—this is what stands out from his correspondence. It’s January, 1939, but he hasn’t left on vacation (though he doesn’t specify what it is that stops him). Actually, a vacation wouldn’t interest him. Cortázar wants another life, an abrupt and unexpected transformation: what he’d like is to literally hop on board a cargo ship for Mexico. His anxiety comes through in the next letter, written that same month, in which he regrets postponing the trip, at least for now: there aren’t any ships in Buenos Aires bound for Mexico. The nearest port besides is Valparaíso, so he puts off the trip for the following year and commits to saving money. Cortázar admires Mexico, wants to see the Aztec pyramids and hear the local music.

January in Buenos Aires, we can picture this. The drawn-out swelter in the neighborhoods, a constant summer barely suppressed on the streets sheltered by plantain trees. It’s 1939. (In a few months, while Cortázar is exiled in Chivilcoy, an indifferent Gombrowicz will come ashore. Six years before, Novo, the Mexican, disembarked from another ship. We can picture this too, since everyone knows that the city is an extension of the river.

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