Tag Archives: Cesar Aira

Happy Independence Day, Argentina!

Argentina declared its independence from Spain on July 9, 1816. Pope Francis and soccer player Lionel Messi call the South American country home. The country boasts a romantic image (the tango) and a tumultuous history (the Dirty War, when thousands of young Argentines disappeared in the 1970s) that makes it perfect fodder for its writers. (Face palm. I somehow forgot about Julio Cortázar when I first wrote this. Here’s his profile.)

Jorge_Luis_BorgesJorge Luis Borges (1899-1986) has become one of the most beloved writers of all time thanks to his short stories, which are collected in the books The Aleph and Ficciones. He won the Cervantes Prize, one of the most prestigious awards given to Spanish-language writers. Another Cervantes winner, Adolfo Bioy Casares (1914-1999), wrote the science fiction novel, The Invention of Moral, which was called “perfect” by Borges, a frequent collaborator.

Ernesto_Sabato_circa_1972• Other Cervantes honorees include Ernesto Sábato (1911-2011), left, who tackled psychological issues in books such as The Tunnel, and poet Juan Gelman, whose relatives who went missing during the Dirty War, inspiring  his political activism. The Dirty War is the focus of Carolina DeRobertis’ novel Perla.

puigManuel Puig (1932-1990) wrote one of Latino literature’s most famous works – the 1976 novel Kiss of the Spider Woman, about a gay man and a revolutionary who are trapped in prison together. The novel became a play, a popular Oscar-winning 1985 movie and Broadway musical. He also wrote 1968’s Betrayed by Rita Hayworth and 1973’s The Buenos Aires Affair.

Mempo Giardinelli• Winners of the Rómulo Gallegos International Novel Prize, one of Latin America’s most prestigious literary awards, are Abel Posse for Los perros del paraíso; Mempo Giardinelli, left, for Santo oficio de la memoria; and Ricardo Piglia, for Blanco nocturno.

JuliaAmante• Other writers with Argentine roots include Julia Amante, right, author of Say You’ll Be Mine; Annamaria Alfari, whose latest novel, Blood Tango, features Argentina’s most famous political couple, Juan and Eva Peron; quirky novelist César Aira; and Sonia Nazario, Pulitzer Prize winner author of Enrique’s Journey.

Sources: Britannica.com, Wikipedia. Hat tip for Joy Castro for the Borges quote on Casares.

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Book review: César Aira’s “The Miracle Cures of Dr. Aira”

The Miracle Cures of Dr. Aira (New Directions) by César Aira begins with the title character talking to a tree.

So begins another original novel by Argentine-based Aira, whose Varamo was released earlier this year. In this 80-page novel, Dr. Aira is a Buenos Aires doctor who believes he is being followed and filmed in pursuit of his miracle cures.

The book is funny and philosophical at times, strange and confusing at others. Take this passage that shows Dr. Aira’s paranoia – and the book’s charm:

He had developed at least one sure method for finding out if somebody was observing him: it consisted of yawning while secretly spying on the one he suspected; if he yawned in turn, it meant his eyes had been on him, because the contagious property of yawns is infallible. Of course, somebody who just happened to be looking at him at that moment might have yawned; and anyway, proof didn’t do him much good, though at least he knew what to expect, which was enough for him.

But Aira writes in long sentences that can ramble and may need to be reread. The ending may be a bit mystifying for some readers – but it’s just about what you would expect from the quirky mind of César Aira.

More about César Aira:

César Aira is the author of more than 70 novels and essays. Miracle Cures was translated by Katherine Silver.

Source: I received a review copy from the publisher.

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In the news: New books by Cisneros; book festivals; and tons of links about Junot Díaz

(Note: This post was updated to include the Junot Díaz award from the MacArthur Foundation.)

It’s October, and that means news books, book festival season and Dias de los Muertos. Find out more below:

Already out: Sesame Street actress Sonia Manzano’s young adult novel The Revolution of Everlyn Serrano depicts a Puerto Rican teen growing up in Spanish Harlem in the turbulent 1960s. Manzano talked to the TBD website about the book.

• Oct. 1: Guadalupe García McCall, author of the Pura Belpre winning book Under the Mesquite, releases Summer of the Mariposas, a retelling of Homer’s The Odyssey through the eyes of five sisters.

Oct. 2: Sandra Cisneros writes about her missing cat in the illustrated book, Have You Seen Marie?

Oct. 9: In the young adult novel A Thunderous Whisper by Christina Díaz Gonzalez, a 12-year-old girl is caught up in spying during the Spanish Civil War.

Oct. 16: Benjamin Alire Saenz releases a collection of short stories, Everything Begins and Ends at the Kentucky Club. In The Miracle Cures of Dr. Aira by Cesar Aira, a doctor discovers he has superhuman powers.

Junot Díaz alert:

Junot Díaz was awarded the prestigious MacArthur “Genius Award” on Oct. 1. The honor is given by the MacArthur Foundation to outstanding individuals in the arts, humanities and sciences.

Need a Junot Díaz fix? Lots of people do since his collection of short stories, This Is How You Lose Her, was released last month. Nearly a thousand fans crammed into a New York City Barnes and Noble, causing a near riot, according to the ColorLines website. He chatted with The New York Times Magazine’s recent “Inspiration” issue about what has influenced his writing, and a nice slideshow is included. He talked about the main character’s game to NPR; his Dominican background to NBC Latino; genre fiction to Capital New York; and the perceived sexism in his book to The Atlantic. He also went bar-hopping with Grantland. But wait, here’s more articles from Latina magazine, the NPR radio show Latino USA, Huffington Post, the Good Reads website and CNN. Here’s some podcasts from The New York Timesand the Brooklyn Vol. 1 website, where Díaz discusses his passion for comic books. He talked about his love for the Hernandez brothers (of Love and Rockets fame) to the NPR radio program Latino USA. Still can’t get enough of Díaz? Check out his Facebook feed or the new fan website, Junot Díaz Daily.

Book Festivals:

Oct. 1-6: The San Diego City College Int’l Book Fair will include Reyna Grande (left), Gustavo Arellano, Rudy Acuña, Matt de la Peña and Herbert Sigüenza.

Oct. 13 – The Los Angeles Latino Book & Family Festival will feature Victor Villaseñor and Luis J. Rodriguez.

Oct. 27: The Boston Book Festival will feature Junot Díaz and Justin Torres, right.

Oct. 27-28: The Texas Book Festival in Austin will feature Gustavo Arellano, Nora de Hoyos Comstock, Junot Díaz, Reyna Grande, Diana López, Domingo Martinez, Guadalupe Garcia McCall, Benjamin Alire Sáenz, René Saldaña Jr., Esmeralda Santiago, Ilan Stavans, Duncan Tonatiuh, Juan Pablo Villalobos, Ray Villareal and Gwendolyn Zepeda.

Literary magazines:

Aztlan Libre Press has released the book Nahualliandoing Dos: An Anthology of Poetry, which was influenced by Cecilio Garcia-Camarillo, Caracol and Nahualliandoing.

• Here’s an interesting article from Ploughshares literary magazine from Jennifer De Leon (no relation) about whether to italicize foreign phrases in literary works, with a mention of Junot Díaz (him again!).

Events:

• Las Comadres Para Las Americas will host a writer’s workshop Oct. 6 in New York City. Speakers include  Sonia Manzano, Lyn DiIorio, and Caridad Pineiro.

• The Festival de la Palabra, which includes discussions and readings from from Rosa Beltrán, Ángel Antonio Ruiz Laboy and Charlie Vásquez, takes place Oct. 9-11 in New York City.

Other news:

• The Southern California public radio station KPCC covered a reading of Ban This! The BSP Anthology of Chicano Literature, written in response to the state of Arizona’s ban on ethnic studies.

• Poet Lupe Mendez was named one of the Houston Press’s top 100 creative people.

Héctor Tobar’s 2011 novel The Barbarian Nurseries may be adapted into a movie, according to ComingSoon.net.

• The film version of Rudolfo Anaya’s Bless Me Ultima premiered in El Paso, according to the El Paso Times.

• A new film based on Juan Gonzalez’s Harvest of Empire: A History of Latinos in America is being released.

Justin Torres, author of 2011’s We the Animals, was named to the National Book Founationa’s 5 under 35 list of emerging authors.

Also this month:

• Celebrating birthdays this month: Nobel Prize winner Miguel Angel Asturias, right, on Oct. 19.

• The Nobel Prizes will be announced this month, and Book Riot has its predictions. (It’s not likely a Latino or an American will win this year.) Here’s a look at Latinos who’ve won the award.

• Looking for some books for Dias de los Muertos? Here’s The Hispanic Reader’s round-up from last year.

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Filed under 2012 Books, Events, Fiction, Movies, News, Non-Fiction, Young Adult Books

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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In the news: New books by Sáenz and Aira, plus Cisneros, García Márquez

New releases:

• Coming out this week: the young adult novel Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz, about the friendship between two teenage boys, and Varamo by César Aira, about the making of an epic poem by a Panamanian bureaucrat.

Latino scholars honored:

Latino scholars Teófilo Ruiz and Ramón Saldívar were awarded the National Humanities Medal by President Barack Obama.

Children’s books:

Pam Muñoz Ryan’s When Marian Sang: The True Recital of Marian Anderson and Esperanza Rising and Antonio Skarmeta’s The Composition made USA Today’s 100 Greatest Books for Kids.

Reading is Fundamental’s 2011-12 Multicultural Booklist includes books by Loretta Lopez, Alma Flor Ada, George Ancona and Gary Soto.

Other stories:

• The San Antonio Current ran an article about author Sandra Cisneros’ impact on the city, which she plans to leave.

Gabriel García Márquez’s Love in the Time of Cholera inspired Carlos Campos’ latest fashion collection, according to the Los Angeles Times.

• A Toronto librarian found a letter that appeared to have been written by Jorge Luis Borges, reports the Canadian magazine Quill & Quire.

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New year, new books: What’s ahead for 2012

A new year brings a new batch of books to look forward to reading. Here’s a round-up of some upcoming titles by Latino authors coming in the first half of this year. Special thanks to The Millions website, where I got some of the tips.

• In February, Argentine writer César Aira will release Varamo, about a bureaucrat in Panama who unexpectedly writes an epic poem. The New Yorker ran an interesting interview with Aira’s translator, Chris Andrews, last year.

• Also in February, Benjamin Alire Saenz will release his young adult novel, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe about two teens who form an unlikely friendship.

• In April, Orange County Weekly editor Gustavo Arellano – known for his “Ask a Mexican!” column – will release Taco Nation, about America’s obsession with Mexican food. Sounds tasty.

Roberto Bolaño must be the Tupac Shakur of Latino writers. He continues to publish books even after his death in 2003. His collection of stories, The Secret of Evil, will come out in April.

Border Town: Crossing the Line is a Sweet Valley High-like series by Malín Alegría, author of the popular Estrella’s Quinceañera, about two teenage girls who live in fictional Dos Rios, Texas.

• Also in May, Sergio De La Pava’s A Naked Singularity will come out by the University of Chicago Press after a run as a self-published book. The comic novel focuses on a Brooklyn attorney who commits a crime.

• Nobel Prize winner Mario Vargas Llosa will publish The Dream of the Celt, about Irish human rights activist Roger Casement, in June.

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