At some point around two this morning I finally got around to reading this thoughtful essay by fellow San Telmo resident Marcelo Ballvé, The Literary Alchemy of César Aira.
Aira is certainly one of the leading voices in contemporary Argentine literature. In what is becoming a tradition among Argentine writers, Aira’s works are not at all traditional treatments of fiction. Marcelo tells us, “Like the storyteller of prehistory, Aira is concerned not so much with verisimilitude or realism as he is with that bewitching kernel of mystery that is at the heart of a narrative.”
Marcelo makes the case that Aira’s book “An Episode in the Life of a Landscape Painter is one of the great works of world literature from the last 25 years of the last century, as good if not better than W.G. Sebald or Roberto Bolaño.” That’s a pretty strong statement, particularly considering the Bolaño mania of the past year. (But Marcelo is far from being alone in his praise. The Aira novel was recognized as the most extraordinary book in translation of 2006).
Aira claims to never edit his works, which is a contrast to many writers (myself included) who believe that the art of writing is in the revisions. But Aira takes a refreshingly artistic approach to literature:
“The key to Aira’s curious career, I think, is to be found in his conception of literature as something with more affinities to the realm of action than the inner world of reflection. Literature is perhaps nothing more complicated and glorious than the act of writing and publishing, and publishing again and again. Editing is dispensable, so is the search for the “right” publisher.”
Someday when I want to think more about it, there are some intriguing aspects to Aira that foreshadow developments in new media and, perhaps, the future of literature. The lack of editing so that writing retains an always forward motion, a continuum, is today most clearly seen in blogging, a form of writing which is rarely self-edited and by its very chronological nature is in constant movement.
All of which makes me think that Aira would be one of hell of a blogger. (Does he have a blog?) Well, maybe if he was a few decades younger then he would be a blogging, Twittering fool. After all, is literature about writing or creating physical objects known as books?