César Aira, the hallucinated flight forward – La Tercera

Fabius Exelsus Fulgentius is a veteran Roman general who, at 67 years old, is no longer so concerned with conquests, or the spoils of war, or greening laurels as Pompey and Julius Caesar did. Rather, take advantage of the trips commanding his legions to consolidate a passion that makes him reborn.

Destined to the region of Pannonia (the current area that covers from Austria to Bosnia, in central Europe and the Balkans), where he must pacify it from Illyrian guerrillas, Fulgentius asks his assistants that in each town and city where they stop, locate actors. The idea is that they represent a play written by the same old general.

That is the thread of Fulgentius, the new –and brief– novel by the Argentine writer Cesar Aira published via Random House Literature. Perhaps the eternal candidate of his country for the Nobel Prize for Literature (despite him), he is perhaps the most relevant living narrator on the other side of the mountain range. With an extensive corpus that exceeds 100 books, especially short novels, His work has received recognition such as the important Formentor Prize, in 2021.

Although little friend of the interviews, Aira commented to the site Zenda that Fulgentius it is less a historical novel than another one of the artifacts that he usually calls “literary toys for adults”. “I don’t think it’s a proper historical novel.. There are no real characters or events in the story. It is a fable that the same thing could have happened in China or in Poland. I set it in Rome just to have some Asterix props, and because the more personal what I write, the farther in time and space I take it. The reflections are filler”.

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consulted if at all Fulgentius it helped him to know something about himself, he said: “No, although why would I want to know myself when there is so much to discover and explore and enjoy in the world? It would be wasting time. I think that if I became a writer it was to be able to take a vacation from myself. And I wrote a lot, so it’s not worth searching, because under a disguise there is always another disguise.”

Unlike other more complex volumes of his career, Fulgentius it is easy to read. Although beyond the story it tells, there are other layers, where there are reflections on vanity, the passage of time, creation. The first is quite an issue, considering that the aforementioned play is the only one that Fulgentius has written in his life and despite that he feels like a playwright by trade.

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Considering the vast volume of his publications, how could we characterize the work of César Aira? We tried an exercise consulting the Argentine writer Mauro Libertellawho explains to Culto: “I think that Aira’s writing combines many dissimilar and even contradictory elements, and that makes it very attractive and very powerful. As prose, it is a very clear writing, I would say elegant. It has a classic line, without ornamental excesses but always with a kind of subtle beauty, modest in the best sense”.

“Then there are the themes that spill over into the text,” adds Libertella. I am particularly interested in the speculative Aira, it is extraordinary (from that vintage it is Birthdaymy favourite). Then there is the delirious Aira, who made school in Argentina and so Piglia, I suppose, said that Aira is the surname bad writers sign with.”

Chilean writer and editor Gallo Ghigliotto, who has published two books by the Argentinian in Chile through his publishing house Cuneta (I was a married woman Y a philosopher), points out: “I think the one who has best defined Aira’s writing is himself: ‘a flight forward’. Once he explained it to me: every day he leaves his house in the direction of his favorite cafe; Along the way he listens and observes carefully, because what happens around him can become part of his writing. Already in the cafe he settles down and writes, by hand, on sheets of paper of a special weight and color, a few pages. Then he arrives at his house and passes them to the computer. The next day he did the same and that is how he manages to get out three novels a year”.

“The curious thing is that, when we have to talk about his writing itself, we cannot ignore this methodology, because it makes flesh in the text itself…it is, perhaps, what makes Aira’s writing look hallucinatedas it goes from one thing to another without obvious threads or much explanation, which often disconcerts many readers, “adds Ghigliotto.

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Ghigliotto adds that another element to consider is that strictly speaking, there are many Airas: “The biographical ones, the autobiographical ones, the stylistic ones, the funny ones, etc., and there is also a point where all of those mix. I have often had to talk to people who say ‘I don’t like Aira’, and my response is always the same ‘and what have you read about Aira?’; usually the answer is that they read a book, a single book by Aira! –generally the most hallucinated– and from that they judged. a pity Although I understand. Once one of those people told me ‘it’s that I feel like she’s grabbing you for the leeo all the time’, and well, yes, I thought, it could be”.

What is it like to work with César Aira? Ghigliotto tells: “When Aira sends you a text, it’s ready and there is nothing or almost nothing to do. And it’s true. He is one of those authors who gives you the polished book, arriving and diagramming, even without misprints”. Furthermore, he points out that the author of Parmenides he cares a lot about the cover: “It happens that Aira is a painter: he paints paintings as hallucinated as his novels. Something of that dimension appears at the moment of presenting the covers, which he rejects or accepts in an equally categorical way.. It is as if the book were completed with something that is alien to it: the gaze of the designer. And with that, it is as if he stopped seeing his books as his own, and began to perceive them as other people’s editions, or perhaps, as sheets of an album that he collects in a game that he organizes, but where those of us who give life to his books also participate. books”.

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Logically, delving into such a vast work is not easy. Where to start? Libertella shows her route: “I would start with the roundest ones and then move on to the rarest or hybrids. You can start with The Argentine light, Varamo, The villa, The nights of flowers, An episode in the life of the traveling painter, The magician, The lime tree. Then I would take a step and go into a little more airean territory: Birthday, How I laughed, The new life, Artforum either musical brush strokes”.

Galo Ghigliotto comments: “I always recommend starting with The flower nights. She is one of my favorites. But I also think that a good entry can be the linden, where there is a more personal Aira. There he talks about Pringles, his hometown. And as, I was a married womanwhere a hallucinated Aira appears but much more contained, although without losing his delirious vocation”.

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César Aira, the hallucinated flight forward – La Tercera