César Aira

César Aira was born in 1949 in Coronel Pringles, in the Argentine province of Buenos Aires. In addition being an editor and translator (including texts from English and French), he is also a lecturer at the University of Buenos Aires and the National University of Rosario (where he gives courses on the French poet Arthur Rimbaud and constructivism, for instance). In Latin America Aira is mainly known for writing about his native country.

Of the 90 books he has published to date, many have been translated into French, English, Chinese and other languages. Aira celebrated his German debut in 2000 with his novel »Embalse« (1987; tr: Reservoir), followed in 2003 by »Un episodio en la vida del pintor viajero« (2000; Eng. »An Episode in the Life of a Landscape Painter«, 2006), a novella on the German painter Johann Moritz Rugendas, who was commissioned by Alexander von Humboldt to explore South America in 1837 and to document his travels through his paintings. The »Süddeutsche Zeitung« noted that Aira’s detailed and distant narrative style is »a striking example of South America’s alternative model of ›tropical‹ magical realism«. According to Florian Borch of the »Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung«, Aira’s novel »Ema, la cautiva« (1981; Eng. »Ema, the Captive«, 2016) already bears the signature of a writer tipped for a Nobel Prize in Literature in the future, as he rivals even Borges – Argentina’s grandmaster – in both talent and humor. Not only does Aira depart from the expectations of a historical novel, as »the world of the noble savage« becomes an »artificial feudal society«, he also embarks on a subversive revision of historiography as shaped by erstwhile conquerors (»Die Zeit«). Also in his novel »Los fantasmas« (1990; Eng. »Ghosts«, 2009), Aira uses »the reader’s bewilderment as a stylistic device, depicting a confused societal reality in which an exceptional situation has long since become the mundane« (Götz Kohlmann). While Aira casually mentions that naked men – dead construction workers appearing as ghosts through the dust – are present while future tenants survey an apartment house still being built, he interweaves digressions on, for example, ideal architecture. This sets the reader on a »turbulent rollercoaster ride across various narrative styles and literary genres while neatly avoiding a strict storyline« (»Süddeutsche Zeitung«). In 2015 Matthes & Seitz published the series »Bibliothek César Aira« (tr: César Aira Library), which comprises the novellas »El pequeño monje buddista« (2006; tr: The Little Buddhist Monk), »La prueba« (1998; tr: The Proof) – which was made into a film in 2002 – and »Cómo me hice monja« (1993; Eng. »How I Became a Nun«, 2007).

Aira, who also writes essays, such as »Duchamp in Mexiko« (the German title given to a collection published in 2015) and plays, lives in Buenos Aires.