The New York Times
Ghostsby César Aira
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/p>… See more details below
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.
The New York Times
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.
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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.