I finished reading The Miracle Cures of Dr. Aira last night and immediately went back and started reading it again. What struck me as I did that was how tightly this novel is composed. What had seemed like incomprehensible or overtly surreal touches on my initial reading now very much made sense as an overall part of Aira’s artistic vision. This is a hard thing to do in any case, but particularly given the formal constraints Aira places on himself when he writes a novel.
The reviews I’ve seen so far focus on the rather clear metafictional agenda Aira lays out in the book (the “miracle cure” is like writing a novel). That’s obviously a part of Miracle Cures, but it seems much too easy for a writer of Aira’s talents, and he belabors the point so much that it’s hard not to be suspicious. What I’m beginning to lean toward is that the book is somehow a deconstruction of performance, a look at how one physically carves a path in this world in harmony with a very rich life of the mind. The book seems to be about the possibility of performance in an increasingly mediated world, and possibly also about the degree to which the protagonist of a novel has control over the narrative.
The best review I’ve read so far of this book is the one in Asymptote.
What Actyn represents is a new hyperreality where everything is connected and everyone is aware of these interconnections, of the constant strain upon their infinite relationships, and the ease of which we can add to them. In this new world, we may still not know that we exist, but the means for convincing ourselves that we do are unprecedented and overwhelming. Like the sound of the ambulance intricately bearing down on the solitary Aira in search of meaning, Dr. Actyn seeks to transform reality by surrounding us with machines that carry on producing more and more increasingly edited layers of reality and encoded meaning, refining our awareness of ourselves so that we become incapable of accepting our existence except through these filters. In contrast, what Dr. Aira already knows is that while the overwhelming totality of existence may be something we cannot escape, we have means of navigating it, of even understanding it, but to do that one needs to abandon addition and embrace subtraction.