cover image The Seamstress and the Wind

The Seamstress and the Wind

C%C3%A9sar Aira, trans. from the Spanish by Rosalie Knecht. New Directions, $12.95 trade paper (144p) ISBN 978-0-8112-1912-9

This surrealist, self-indulgent exercise set between Patagonia and the Argentinian city of Coronel Pringles kicks off with an inspired invocation comparing the characteristics of memory and dreams, with Aira (Ghosts) casting his lot with the latter. Neither tale nor fable nor even novel-like in any traditional sense (be it stream-of-consciousness narrative, automatic writing, experimental fiction, or even magic realism), this reads like a dream interpretation exercise, replete with chatty snowmen, an all-powerful child monster, a "Paleomobile" and a romantically inclined wind going by the name Sir Ventarr%C3%B3n. While Aira manages to stir some sense of anticipation with the desperate quest of Delia Siffoni, a seamstress who has lost her child and seeks him out at "the end of the world," what actually happens to Delia (who is being hunted by an infant abomination spawned the previous night following a card game lost by her husband) or her missing son is never explicated, as Aira seems to lose interest, preferring to focus the d%C3%A9nouement on a game of cards between secondary characters, the point of which remains likewise elusive. (July)