Attending the Dead
César Aira Ghosts, translated from the Spanish by Chris Andrews (New York: New Directions, 2008)
Strangely, the short novels of Argentine writer César Aira—the most recent one, Ghosts, is only 139 pages long—seem to my way of thinking like much longer fictions. Perhaps it is the casual way in which Aira describes his characters, or is the result of his often spiraling structures, based more on associations than on any predetermined plot. Moreover, Aira never seems in a hurry to move his characters forward, and in the case of Ghosts, the poor Chilean workers he portrays, celebrating the New Year on the roof of an expensive, unfinished condominium which they're currently completing, are people who are in no hurry, enjoying the simple pleasures of Elisa's (the wife of the night watchman) grilled chicken, fruits, and wine, telling story after story of their own countrymen and the cultural differences between Chileans and Argentineans.
Douglas Messerli is a poet, dramatist (writing under the name Kier Peters), and fiction writer (Letters from Hanusse). He edits Green Integer and Exploringfictions.
©2009 by Douglas Messerli