Ghosts by Cesar Aira Review

The Complete Review provides the first review I’ve seen of Ghosts, the newest translation from prodigious Argentine Cesar Aira.

It’s a curious little book (as many of Aira’s are), and we’ll be covering it in the spring issue of The Quarterly Conversation. But for now:

Ghosts is set largely on a construction site, a not-quite-finished apartment building. It begins with the future tenants all coming to have a look on the 31st of December, no one really minding that they can’t quite move in yet. The only residents at this time are the night watchman, Raúl Viñas, and his family, temporarily domiciled in what will be the caretaker’s apartment which they will be moving out of once construction is completed (indeed, they had already expected to move on earlier). The only other permanent fixtures in the building are … ghosts. Yes, they’re not that obvious at first (in the story, or the building) but: "the other characters, those bothersome ghosts, were legion". . . .

Also see Marcelo Ballve’s excellent overview of Cesar Aira in The Quarterly Conversation:

Aira has another idea of what a story is, and How I Became a Nun is a paradigmatic example of his simultaneously archaic and avant-garde ideas. Like the storyteller of prehistory, Aira is concerned not so much with verisimilitude or realism as he is with that bewitching kernel of mystery that is at the heart of a narrative. Aira’s novels are very much like folk tales in that they rely on paradox, disjointedness, and ruptures to carry the story forward. His works are fashioned not from sweeping modern visions but from a civilization’s odds and ends, shreds of meaning, the clutter of a reader’s memory and imagination. And like avant-garde visual and literary artists of the early 20th-century (especially the surrealists), Aira is obsessed with procedure and process, the actions at the mysterious origins of art. Also like the avant-gardists, Aira is interested in disrupting the normal workings of the cultural market in which his products are consumed, as his hero Marcel Duchamp did so famously with his ready-mades during the 1910s in Paris. In more than one interview, Aira has said he thinks of himself not so much as an author of novels, but as an artist who happens to write books.



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