The Literary Conference, a slim work by the very productive César Aira, is both fantastic and inventive. The Argentinian author has written over 60 books, though, as yet, only five have been translated into English (a sixth, The Seamstress and the Wind, is slated for release early this summer). This novella, defying easy categorization, incorporates elements from a number of different genres.
Aira's main character, a translator and playwright, sets about fulfilling his dream of world domination through the assumed role of the mad scientist. His plans are to be brought to fruition through the cloning of the great Mexican novelist Carlos Fuentes. The consequences of his plan deviate from their intended course, transforming the story in a wholly unanticipated way. To reveal the outcome, of course, would be poor sportsmanship, but suffice it to say that not a single reader could possibly expect the turns the story takes.
Aira's unique approach to writing literature and upending traditional convention is readily apparent. As more of his catalog becomes available in English, we ought to be treated to an even greater display of his imagination and talent. While The Literary Conference is by no means a masterpiece, it is certainly an original and intriguing work. For whatever strange reason, it kept reminding me of both Bioy Casares's The Invention of Morel and the 1980s arcade game Marble Madness.
As a result, perfection has to find its own way. We can't find perfection. The miracle is that it happens at all. Life is generous that way, it always is. Recommended By Jeremy G., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
César is a translator who's fallen on very hard times due to the global economic downturn; he is also an author, and a mad scientist hell-bent on world domination. On a visit to the beach he intuitively solves an ancient riddle, finds a pirate's treasure, and becomes a very wealthy man. Even so, César's bid for world domination comes first and so he attends a literary conference to be near the man whose clone he hopes will lead an army to victory: the world-renowned Mexican author, Carlos Fuentes. A comic science fiction fantasy of the first order, is the perfect vehicle for César Aira's take over of literature in the 21st century.
"Aira is one of the most provocative and idiosyncratic novelists working in Spanish today and should not be missed." Natasha Wimmer
"Aira's literary significance, like that of many other science fiction writers, comes from how he pushes us to question the porous line between fact and fantasy, to see it not only as malleable in history, but also blurred in the everyday. The engrossing power of his work, though, comes from how he carries out these feats: with the inexhaustible energy and pleasure of a child chasing after imaginary enemies in the park." The New York Times
New in the New Directions Pearls series: an extremely rich mad scientist attempts to clone a leading genius in a bid to take over the world.
About the Author
César Aira (b. 1949) was born in Coronel Pringles, Argentina, in 1949. He has published more than seventy books of fiction and essays.The award-winning translator Katherine Silver has won a PEN Translation Fund Award, an NEA grant, and a Black Mountain Institute/Rainmakers Grant. She is now the Co-director of the Banff International Literary Translation Centre.