FEATURES “THE DIGRESSION” AND A LONG INTERVIEW WITH CESAR AIRA
The Latin American Mixtape is a collection of literary “b sides” and hard to find items, all relating to Latin America and its authors.
It features 3 never-before-published essays, including “The Digression”—a 4,000-word piece on the most important digression in César Aira’s career, written specifically for the Mixtape. Plus, an in-depth essay on Rodrigo Rey Rosa.
Also includes hard-to-find interviews and essays, and each piece comes with a short intro explaining why I have chosen to place it in the mixtape.
All in all, over 25,000 words of Latin American literary goodness.
. . . the building on top of which she was sleeping, not as it would be later on, not seeing it finished and inhabited, but as it was now, that is, under construction.
This key digression in Aira’s body of work is all about the incomplete, which I see as the key concept in Aira’s theory of the novel.
Aira’s entire career is always under construction. His favorite method is a flight from completion, a flight from what is past and done, from ever repeating anything he has said before, or even stopping long enough to let his fiery potential cool down.
He writes like we all sleep: constantly progressing through a foreign world that requires improvisation at every moment. There is no routine in dreams. There is only the bewilderment of the constantly new. This is Aira. He writes to keep his iron burning white hot at all times.
But there is always a difference between dreams and reality . . .
This statement is found amid some speculation about dreams, and at first glace it may seem too obvious to need saying. Which of us does not know sleep from dreams?
Or maybe it is not that simple, for we all learn that if you are unsure whether you are dreaming or not, you can pinch yourself to check. How many times have you woken up from sleep, amazed to find that the experience of whose reality you were absolutely certain a moment ago, was in fact a projection of your own mind? I myself have many times woken from a dream of infinite loss, utterly relieved to see that it was all only a dream, that relief feeling as real to me as any emotion ever were.
What is the difference between dream and reality for Aira? For Patri? And what of that state that Aira enters for those few hours every day when he is immersed in the act of writing? Could that constant flight forward be akin to a waking dream?
Aira is correct to foreground dreams in this key digression, because they are a prevailing state of human existence, despite all the appearances of our waking world. For keep in mind: as you are reading this, billions and billions of people on the darkened side of the Earth are currently inhabiting their dreams. What do they see there, and how is it changing their lives?
I do not doubt its influence. We spend one-third of our lives asleep. It is essential, its processes fundamental and poorly understood. The experiences we have within our dreams are remarkable. We may be accustomed to thinking of dreaming and waking as separate, but perhaps the borders between them are as porous as Aira suggests.