Book review: César Aira’s “Varamo”

In just 88 pages, César Aira’s Varamo (New Directions) contains more quirkiness than a Wes Anderson movie.

The book is named for the book’s protagonist, Varamo, a bureaucrat in Colon, Panama, who lives an ordinary life. But one afternoon, he receives counterfeit money for his salary. Varamo is a decent man and feels confused about what to do with the money.

He tries to go on with his life – such as embalming small animals to create wacky scenes; dealing with his temperamental mother; and going to a club that he hangs out every night. But even his fun is interrupted by something called regularity racing, an auto contest in which the winner is determined by which car deviates the least from a predetermined speed.

I told you this book was quirky.

All of these events led Varamo to write a poem – something he has never done before – that makes him a hero in his country. The poem, called The Song of the Virgin Boy, is made up of the papers Varamo collected from the day’s events, although the reader doesn’t get to see this work of art.

Some readers may find Varamo a little odd for their tastes. And it is at times. But for the adventurous, the book may be a fun way to spend an hour.

More about César Aira:

César Aira, a native of Argentina, has written more than 80 books. His translator, Chris Andrews, talked to The New Yorker about Aira’s work. His fans include actor Daniel Radcliffe.

Source: I received a review copy from the publisher.

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Filed under 2012 Books, Book Reviews, Fiction

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