César Aira and the refuge of memory

César Aira and the refuge of memory
César Aira and the refuge of memory

Cult author par excellence, mysterious, elusive… César Aira (Coronel Pringles, Argentina, 1949) does not like interviews, but he sticks to the minimum so that his books reach a certain level. He grants it to talk about In Thought (Random House), another trip to those peculiar worlds that he likes to inhabit in his novels. Juan Marqués analyzed its content, style and genealogy in detail in these pages.

In a small town in rural Argentina in the early to mid-20th century called El Pensamiento and presided over by the primordial presence of the train station, a child contemplates the small wonders of an existence at a different pace, subject to the cycle of the seasons and the impositions of the earth, full of poetry and with a final aftertaste somewhere between mythological and surreal.

We could get more or less and talk about bildungsromanmagical realism or something like that, but Aira is not up to the task.

QUESTION.- How would you present In Thought to readers?

ANSWER.- I could describe it like a pastiche of memoirist literature. I believe that today literary literature can be nothing more than a pastiche of non-literary literature.

Q.- What do you think it means in the context of your career? Why this book now?

R.- For a few years now I have been describing myself as a “serial author of swan songs.”, because the exhaustion I feel when finishing something that I promise myself will be the last is such. But there is always more. It’s okay that way, it seems to me, because that feeling of closure gives my books a weight that they tend not to have.

«I know that the big publishers lose money on me and still continue to publish me»

Q.- To what extent is it difficult to sustain literature like yours? What do you think of the concept of a cult author?

R.-I am lucky to have flourished in the era of independent publishers, who have been my allies in the most daring thing I have done. And with the big publishers, to whom I try to give what is most normal to me, I am very grateful, I know that they lose money on me and still continue to publish me.

Q.- In your work you repeatedly return to life in the provinces and the past. Is it a refuge, an alternative to the current pace of life? A tribute to a way of life that today may seem exotic and different to us? A particularly fertile territory for your style?

R.- In general my fictions start from an abstract idea, a logical-philosophical bet, an interesting paradox, and They spontaneously adapt to the setting that best suits them, which can be the town of my childhood or the neighborhood of Buenos Aires. where I live, more rarely invented places or that I don’t know.

«My mother and almost all my uncles were born in El Pensamiento, and I spent a lot of time during my early years there»

Q.- El Pensamiento exists, but with only a dozen inhabitants who try to revitalize it with rural tourism. To what extent did his birth and experience in the area influence his formation as a writer? Do you come back from time to time? How do you experience the contrast with the big city?

R.- My mother and almost all my uncles, who are many, were born in El Pensamiento, and I spent a lot of time during my early years there. Now the field is mine and my sister’s. The only genuinely autobiographical line in the novel is the one about “making sure The Thought was ours forever.”. A few years ago a nephew suggested I sell it and with the money buy apartments in various capitals around the world to rent to tourists, with the argument that he would give me more income. But I am not so interested in income, which is just another manifestation of the veil of Maya.

Q.- Is the omission of the characters’ proper names intended to accentuate their archetypal character? Does the mythical tone respond to the spatio-temporal (historical) context, to the child’s point of view, to both?

A.- I had not noticed that I did not give names to either the child who speaks or his parents. It’s the effect of the first-person narration, I guess. Children do not name the father or mother (or the teacher).

«The limit of my surrealism is in my respect for the old mechanism of cause and effect»

Q.- The adjective “surrealist” is often applied to your style, but the narrator of In Thought He vindicates the realism of his perception of the figure of the tutor in the face of the distortions that could have been caused by the Romantic novels that he would read later, “as an adult.” Does he consider himself a “realist” writer?

R.– The limit of my surrealism is in my respect for the old mechanism of cause and effect, in which I am irreducible. If a man flies or an animal speaks, there must be an efficient cause for it to happen, a cause plausible enough for the reader to accept it. Now that I think about it, Also the need to be able to visualize the scenes I write is a producer of realism. In short, I am quite realistic, but not in the essentials that would allow me to write long novels.

Q.- The narrator proposes a “double or two-cornered” conception of writing: “On the one hand, of an infinite proliferation, on the other of a reduction that made almost everything disappear to leave just one word, or its shadow or the gap that left.” Do you subscribe to that definition?

R.– I had never thought about it (that’s good about interviews, which I deny so much about) but now I see that the magical powers that I attribute to writing, its property of creating worlds and its majesty for which it is worth dedicating life, are nothing more than fanciful extensions of something as concrete and personal as It does me good, physically, to sit down with a notebook and a pen and write. It does not matter that. It will always be better than not writing.

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