Overview

The most unsettling and stunning of Aira's short novels published by New Directions.


"On a building site of a new, luxury apartment building, visitors looked up at the strange, irregular form of the water tank that crowned the edifice, and the big parabolic dish that would supply television images to all the floors. On the edge of the dish,...

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Ghosts

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Overview

The most unsettling and stunning of Aira's short novels published by New Directions.


"On a building site of a new, luxury apartment building, visitors looked up at the strange, irregular form of the water tank that crowned the edifice, and the big parabolic dish that would supply television images to all the floors. On the edge of the dish, a sharp metallic edge on which no bird would have dared to perch, three completely naked men were sitting, with their faces turned up to the midday sun; no one saw them, of course." — from Ghosts



Ghosts is about a construction worker's family squatting on a building site. They all see large and handsome ghosts around their quarters, but the teenage daughter is the most curious. Her questions about them become more and more heartfelt until the story reaches a critical, chilling moment when the mother realizes that her daughter's life hangs in the balance.

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Editorial Reviews

Natasha Wimmer
Ghosts, the latest installment in Aira's project, is an exercise in queasiness, a heady, vertigo-inducing fantasia…Aira is one of the most provocative and idiosyncratic novelists working in Spanish today, and should not be missed.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly

Aira, an unusual Argentinean author (How I Became a Nun), writes a compelling novel about a migrant Chilean family living in an apartment house under construction in Buenos Aires. New Year's Eve finds the hard-drinking Chilean night watchman, Raúl Vinas, hosting a party with his wife, Elisa, their four small children and Elisa's pensive 15-year-old daughter, Patri. Moreover, ghosts reside in the house: naked, dust-covered floating men, mostly unseen except by Elisa and Patri. The novel engineers a clever layering of metaphorical details about the building, but gradually focuses on Elisa's preparations for the party and her conversations with her daughter about finding a "real man" to marry. Prodded perhaps by her isolation within the family, Patri accepts the ghosts' invitation to a midnight feast, at her life's peril. Aira takes off on fanciful sociological analogies that seem absurd in the mouths of these simple folk, so that in the end the novel functions as an allegorical, albeit touching, comment on his characters' materialism and class. (Feb.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Bookslut
[The ghosts] glide into the novel, ephemerally, just as present in their absence as absent in our presence.”— Jesse Tangen-Mills
The Rumpus
Ghosts has some serious bite, for such a little book. Within it Aira likens literature to a building that has never been built, to an architecht's dream. And though he never comes out and says it, I get the sense that for him the reader is always a ghost, haunting the unbuilt and the imagined, flying through time to attend to the party on the page.”— Emily Keeler
VUE Weekly
Wonderfully strange, characteristically taut and yet irreducible… realistic people, places and behavior, and unfettered often dazzling abstraction.”— Josef Braun
RALPH Magazine
How did he do it, and how did he do it so well?”— Carlos Amantea
The New Yorker
“A languorous, surreal atmosphere of baking heat and quietly menacing shadows... puts one in mind of a painting by de Chirico.”
Complete Review
“An engaging read—a weird little story.”
Los Angeles Times
Aira is firmly in the tradition of Jorge Luis Borges and W.G. Sebald, those great late modernists for whom fiction was a theater of ideas.”— Mark Doty
San Francisco Chronicle
“Utterly astonishing.”
The Mookse and the Gripes
His imagination and intelligence are for real.”— Trevor Berrett
Jesse Tangen-Mills - Bookslut
“[The ghosts] glide into the novel, ephemerally, just as present in their absence as absent in our presence.”
Emily Keeler - The Rumpus
“Ghosts has some serious bite, for such a little book. Within it Aira likens literature to a building that has never been built, to an architect's dream. And though he never comes out and says it, I get the sense that for him the reader is always a ghost, haunting the unbuilt and the imagined, flying through time to attend to the party on the page.”
Josef Braun - VUE Weekly
“Wonderfully strange, characteristically taut and yet irreducible… realistic people, places and behavior, and unfettered often dazzling abstraction.”
Carlos Amantea - RALPH Magazine
“How did he do it, and how did he do it so well?”
Roberto Bolaño
“Once you’ve started reading Aira, you don’t want to stop.”
Thomas McGonigle - Los Angeles Times
“Wonderful... Ghosts is an incitement to the sensuality of thought, of wonder, of questioning, of anticipation.”
Mark Doty - Los Angeles Times
“Aira is firmly in the tradition of Jorge Luis Borges and W.G. Sebald, those great late modernists for whom fiction was a theater of ideas.”
Trevor Berrett - The Mookse and the Gripes
“His imagination and intelligence are for real.”
Marla Johnson
Ghosts may provide the best evidence to consider the enigmatic César Aira an accomplished and prolific wizard of odd.”
Los Angeles Review of Books
“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.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780811219815
  • Publisher: New Directions Publishing Corporation
  • Publication date: 2/5/2009
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 144
  • Sales rank: 890,118
  • File size: 2 MB

Meet the Author

César Aira was born in Coronel Pringles, Argentina, in 1949. Wildly popular in Latin America, he has published more than seventy books of short fictions and essays.

The poet Chris Andrews has translated many books by Roberto Bolaño and César Aira for New Directions.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 3 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Posted May 14, 2010

    Brilliant Writing and Haunting Magical Realism

    Don't let the supernatural title mislead you. This is a literary work, profound in its societal and gender observations. The entire story takes place on New Year's Eve in Buenos Aires and follows the family of a construction caretaker living in a half-built luxury condominium. The focal character is the caretaker's stepdaughter, Patri, whose coming-of-age story is complex, ambiguous, and chilling. Ghosts are real in this story, but they aren't frightening; these ghosts urinate gleefully off of the roof, hang upside down imitating clock hands, and, toward the end of the book, exude masculinity and sexuality. Patri's interaction with the ghosts makes the thoughtful reader ponder gender, culture, youth and experience in the context of the novel. Beyond the thought-provoking story is Aira's tremendous skill as a writer--"bare" writing with wild analogies and strange juxtapositions. "Ghosts" is not a masterpiece, perfect in every way, like Aira's "An Episode in the Life of a Landscape Painter," but it's haunting in its own way, unique and compelling.

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    Posted September 8, 2012

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 17, 2009

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