cover image Conversations


César Aira, trans. from the Spanish by Katherine Silver. New Directions, $13.95 trade paper (96p) ISBN 978-0-8112-2110-8

The indefatigable Aira’s (The Hare) latest is an excellent place to encounter his logic-defying brilliance for the first time, and will likewise please existing fans. Our narrator starts by recalling his practice of revisiting the day’s conversations every night before falling asleep. In this case, the conversation concerns a movie in which a gold Rolex can be seen plainly adorning the wrist of the actor playing the goatherd. Is it an error on the part of the filmmakers? Or, as the narrator’s friend argues, a portal into a subjective third reality somewhere between real life and film, actor and fictional character? One thing is certain: this telltale watch explodes the differences between the two men and opens up a dazzling inquiry into subjects as far ranging as eastern European political instability, the fragmentary nature of fiction, Kant’s critiques, and the film’s equally oddball plot (featuring mutant algae and feral beauty queens). Short enough to read in a single sitting, this book is, like all Aira’s work, fodder for the kind of late-night speculations that lend themselves to seamless dreaming. (June)