cover image Artforum


César Aira, trans. from the Spanish by Katherine Silver. New Directions, $12.95 trade paper (80p) ISBN 978-0-8112-2926-5

Aira’s clever, whimsical collection of autofiction (after The Musical Brain) draws on the author’s obsessive 30-year-long pursuit of collecting the international art magazine Artforum. Initially able to obtain issues in Argentina only by chance, Aira comes to believe the glossy objects are enchanted by “divine automatism” after one volume shape-shifts into a form resembling a soccer ball, having absorbed the rain from an open window and keeping his other magazines dry, “like a magical and heroic solider.” After exhausting a search for new issues in local bookstores, he orders a subscription, only to face an interminable wait for new issues. As they trickle in from the U.S., he begins counting down the days to each issue’s expected arrival date. He travels to a used bookstore in Buenos Aires to buy a stack of back issues that belonged to a dead gallery owner, and as his patience grows thin, he decides to make his own version of the magazine. As Aira illuminates the dead ends in his drive to collect the magazine, he offers rich insight into the appreciation of art and the desire to possess. This entertaining jaunt through the writer’s creative development satisfies with brevity and grace. Agent: Michael Gaeb. (Mar.)