cover image The Hare

The Hare

Cesar Aira. New Directions, $14.95 trade paper (272p) ISBN 978-0-8112-2090-3

Simultaneously an homage and deconstruction of the Victorian adventure story, Aira (Varamo) delivers an ingenious and acrobatic novel set on the Argentinean pampas. Clarke, an English naturalist, undertakes an expedition to document the legendary Legibrerian hare, an animal so elusive it may not even exist. But Clarke's search is cut short when Cafulcura, leader of the Mapuche, either disappears or is kidnapped and Clarke is tasked with recovering the chieftain, setting off a wild adventure punctuated by panoramic set pieces and Aira's trademark digressions into subaltern history, myth, and philosophy. Plunged into a dizzyingly alien culture where language and meaning are unstable, making each conversation more gnomic and unreliable than the last, the European discovers that his logic, science, progress, and poise will not aid him in mastering the pampas. The novel moves erratically, never quite landing where you think, and as mysterious subplot after subplot is introduced, one may be forgiven for suspecting that Aira is playing a joke at the expense of the reader, but in his masterful hands, ambiguity eventually builds to order, mystery to revelation, and every digression turns out to have a purpose%E2%80%94all without ever undercutting the fundamental tension that Aira has created between his reasoned protagonist and the novel's ambiguous setting. (July)