Thursday, April 05, 2007

Book Review: How I Became a Nun by César Aira

Tom Roberge reviews César Aira "How I Became a Nun"

Many novels succeed by virtue of their authors' abilities to take a single event or moment and parse it into individual elements: background information, subtle details, motivations, consequences. The reader, in this model, is taken from a point of relative confusion to a point of clarity. This is a time-tested formula, but there are writers capable of succeeding by following a model that runs contrary to this one.

César Aira's How I Became a Nun starts with a small but not insignificant event: the day the narrator's father delivers on a long-standing promise to treat her (or him — Aira changes the child's gender every few pages) to an ice-cream cone. But the child hates the taste so much that she ends up sobbing violently at the thought of another mouthful. To reveal what happens next would spoil the tragic story, but it changes the child's life.
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