Saturday, March 17, 2012

Cesar Aira: Varamo

Right now a novel's length seems a neutral force. Over here, you have Haruki Murakami and Peter Nadas lying silent for years, then storming the shores of consciousness with thousand-page dreadnoughts; over there, the Argentine writer César Aira, pumping out books of one-tenth the size that can still put knots in your brain.
Since 1975 he has published more than 80 of them in Spanish, according to his publisher. "Varamo" is the seventh to be translated into English, and the sixth since 2006 by New Directions. It concerns an afternoon and evening in the life of a middle-aged civil-service flunky by that name. The setting is Colón, the Panamanian city by the Caribbean mouth of the canal; it's 1923, nine years after the canal's completion.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Gonçalo M. Tavares: Jerusalem

Such questions about technological determinism occupy a vital space in the artistic medulla of the Portuguese novelist Gonçalo M. Tavares. Since 2001, Tavares has been publishing plays, story collections, essays, and novels while concomitantly snagging a whole bevy of literary prizes. Born in 1970, the Portuguese novelist's Jerusalem won the 2005 Jose Saramago Prize and inspired the Nobel Prize-winning Saramago himself to rather hyperbolically state that "in thirty years' time, if not before, [Tavares] will win the Nobel Prize, and I'm sure my prediction will come true…