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The Musical Brain: And Other Stories
     

The Musical Brain: And Other Stories

by César Aira, Chris Andrews (Translator)
 

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A delirious collection of short stories from the Latin American master of micro-fiction.
A delirious collection of short stories from the Latin American master of microfiction, César Aira–the author of at least eighty novels, most of them barely one hundred pages long–The Musical Brain & Other Stories comprises twenty tales about oddballs,

Overview

A delirious collection of short stories from the Latin American master of micro-fiction.
A delirious collection of short stories from the Latin American master of microfiction, César Aira–the author of at least eighty novels, most of them barely one hundred pages long–The Musical Brain & Other Stories comprises twenty tales about oddballs, freaks, and loonies. Aira, with his fuga hacia adelante or "flight forward" into the unknown, gives us imponderables to ponder and bizarre and seemingly out-of-context plot lines, as well as thoughtful and passionate takes on everyday reality. The title story, first published in the New Yorker, is the creme de la creme of this exhilarating collection.

Editorial Reviews

The New York Times Book Review - Patti Smith
The stories in The Musical Brain exhibit the continuing narration of Aira's improvisational mind. His characters…enter a shifting and tilting landscape of events that unhinge our temporal existence and render it phantasmagorical yet seemingly everyday in the unfolding. His matter-of-fact approach, accepting even the most outlandish episodes, suspends disbelief and encourages one's own sense of displacement, of being released from the commonplace…Aira's stories seem like shards from an ever expanding interconnecting universe. He populates the racing void with multitudinous visions, like Indian paintings of gods vomiting gods. He executes digression with muscular lucidity. At times I had to simultaneously speed up and slow down to follow him, but once I matched his rhythm, his thoughts seemed no more than a stone skipping across the page, expressing something I had been privately thinking but could not put into words. In this he has the perfect translator in Chris Andrews, who leap by leap seamlessly mirrors Aira's kaleidoscopic sensibilities, a symbiotic pairing.
Publishers Weekly
★ 01/05/2015
Aira’s output has been a steady trickle of irrefutable genius and deepening strangeness, from the haunted architecture of Ghosts to delirious westerns set in the pampas of South America, such as The Hare. Now we have the first collection of Aira’s stories, which might be his masterpiece. Essentially 20 novelettes, this book includes the tales “A Thousand Drops,” in which the paint droplets constituting the Mona Lisa evacuate to start lives of their own, and the title story, in which Aira’s hometown of Coronel Pringles, Argentina, becomes a phantasmagoria of flying dwarves. Aficionados will recognize the author’s imitable modes: the philosophic wormhole (as the logic of numbers leads to the brink of absurdity in “The Infinite”), the comedy of coincidence (as in “The All that Plows Through the Nothing,” which begins with an overheard conversation at a gym and ends with the death of a man who claims to have “become literature” after seeing the back of a ghost), and the gnomic furniture dramas (such as “Acts of Charity,” which consists entirely of the description of a house that a priest is constructing for his successor). But there’s something new, too: pieces that comment implicitly on Aira’s process, which, like the great avant-garde pianist channeled in “Cecil Taylor,” refuses to leave “the particular for later” and which inscrutably mingles form and narrative. (Mar.)
Roberto Bolaño
“Once you start reading Aira, you don't want to stop.”
Patti Smith - The New York Times Book Review
“Aira’s cubist eye sees from every ­angle.The stories in “The Musical Brain” exhibit the continuing narration of Aira’s improvisational mind. His characters — whether comic-strip ruffians, apes, subatomic particles or a version of his boyhood self — enter a shifting and tilting landscape of events that unhinge our temporal existence and render it phantasmagorical yet seemingly everyday in the unfolding. His matter-of-fact approach, accepting even the most outlandish episodes, suspends disbelief and encourages one’s own sense of displacement, of being released from the commonplace. Hail César!”
Harper's
“Astonishing–turns Don Quixote into Picasso.”
The Millions
“César Aira's novels are the narrative equivalent of the Exquisite Corpse, that surrealist parlor game in which players add to drawings or stories without knowledge of previous or subsequent additions. Wildly heterogeneous elements are thrown together, and the final result never fails to surprise and amuse. Aira is wacky enough to play the game by himself, but the reader isn't left out either.”
Natasha Wimmer - The New York Times
“Exhilarating. César Aira is the Duchamp of Latin American literature. Aira is one of the most provocative and idiosyncratic novelists working in spanish today and should not be missed.”
Paris Review
“Wildly Funny.”
Thomas Hachard - Los Angeles Review of Books
“An Aesop in Breton's clothing.”
Marcela Valdes - The Nation
“César Aira is Argentina's greatest living author.”
Aura Estrada - Boston Review
“Cerebral, witty, fanciful and idiosyncratic.”
Benjamin Lytal - The New York Sun
“Aira oversteps the bounds of realism, forcing the world to live up to his imagination.”
Michael Upchurch - The Seattle Times
“Aira delivers one surreal unraveling of reality after another that proceeds paradox by paradox into psychic realms”
The Guardian
“Surreal, witty, and funny.”
Michael Eaude - Times Literary Supplement
“Aira’s novels parody narrative form, destroy normal cause and effect, and contain bold conceptual dialogues.”
Cristopher Byrd - The Believer
“Aira stresses the sublime without falling back on the props of magical realism”
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.”
The New York Review of Books
“Aira seems fascinated by the idea of storytelling as invention, invention as improvisation, and improvisation as transgression, as getting away with something.”
The New Yorker
“Aira conjures a languorous, surreal atmosphere of baking heat and quietly menacing shadows that puts one in mind of a painting by de Chirico.”
Maria Moreno - Bomb
“César Aira's body of work is a perfect machine for invention.”
Scott Esposito - Tin House
“This prolific Argentine writer has inspired a cult following.”
The Wall Street Journal
“Argentine author César Aira is an exquisite miniaturist who toys with avant-garde techniques. His work has drawn comparisons to Vladimir Nabokov and Italo Calvino for its gleeful literary gamesmanship and stories-within-stories.”
Jacob Mikanowski - The Millions
“His novels are eccentric clones of reality, where the lights are brighter, the picture is sharper, and everything happens at the speed of thought.”
Thomas McGonigle - Los Angeles Times
“What a gift: to look forward to reading a new Aira novel from New Directions every year for the rest of one's life.”
Megan Doll - San Francisco Chronicle
“Irreverent inventiveness…without analogue in contemporary literature”
New York Observer
“One of the most celebrated authors in Latin America.”
Michael H. Miller - The American Reader
“A quixotic chemist.”
Michael Greenberg - The New York Review of Books
“The novelist who can't be stopped. Aira's novels are dense, unpredictable confections delivered in plain, stealthily lyrical style capable of accommodating his fondness for mixing metaphysics, realism, pulp fiction, and Dadaist incongruities.”
Marcela Valdes - NPR Books
“Outlandish B-movie fantasies are all part of the game. His best-known works are nonsensically hysterical. To love César Aira you must have a taste for the absurd, a tolerance for the obscurely philosophical, and a willingness to laugh out loud against your better judgment.”
Chloe Schama - The New Republic
“A distinctive hallucinatory style, which blends together reality and fiction, the waking world and the dream world”
Tess Lewis - The Hudson Review
“César Aira is the energizer bunny of Latin American literature.”
Joe Gallagher - Ploughshares
“Genius. César Aira is a deconstructed Kafka; a compact comprehensible Roberto Bolaño obsessed with the frightening nonsense of civilization.”
Laura Pearson - Chicago Tribune
“Uncanny imagination a la Calvino.”
Los Angeles Times
“Unsettling and elegant parables.”
James S. A. Correy - The Denver Post
“César Aira is wild. The laws of gravity do not apply.”
Rivka Galchen - Harper's
“Aira's works are like slim cabinets of wonder, full of unlikely juxtapositions. His unpredictability is masterful.”
Andrew Irvin - Miami Herald
“South America's answer to Haruki Murikami.”
Robyn Creswell - Paris Review
“A lampoon of our need for narrative. No one today does megafiction like Aira.”
Kirkus Reviews
2014-12-20
Twenty hallucinatory, open-ended short stories by Aira (Shantytown, 2013, etc.), an Argentinian master of improvisational writing.Reading Aira's work can give you the feeling of being swept up in a flash flood and carried along whether you're ready or not. It's certainly constant momentum that marks this collection of work, written over the past decade or so—stories begin in the middle, spin on a dime and are often as warped as a Salvador Dalí landscape. The opener, "A Brick Wall," joins stories like "The Infinite," "The Two Men" and the title tale in remembering (or dis-remembering) a childhood in Argentina but also paying testament to the enduring strangeness of a child's imagination and sometimes mocking the author's own literary reputation. "Daydreams are always about concepts, not examples. I wouldn't want anything I've written to be taken as an example," Aira writes in "The Infinite." On the flip side, "The All That Plows through the Nothing" finds the first-person narrator working out in a gym, eavesdropping on local housewives and ultimately offering a tender but also funny meditation on aging and death. "Death is the exorbitant price that a failure like me has to pay for becoming literature," he writes. Then there are the stories that are, as they say, completely different. For instance, "God's Tea Party," in which the creator regularly celebrates his birthday with a lavish affair to which only apes are invited as "a kind of deliberate and spiteful (or, at best, ironic) slight on the part of the Lord, aimed at a human race that has disappointed Him." Or "A Thousand Drops," in which drops of oil paint from the Mona Lisa run off to start creative lives of their own. Or "Poverty," a love letter that anthropomorphizes the condition of being poor into a constant companion. Not everyone's cup of tea, certainly, but very few can write their way out of a corner better than Aira.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780811220293
Publisher:
New Directions Publishing Corporation
Publication date:
03/03/2015
Pages:
240
Sales rank:
893,784
Product dimensions:
5.30(w) x 7.10(h) x 1.30(d)

Meet the Author

Nominated for a Neustadt Award and shortlisted for the 2015 Man Booker International Prize, César Aira was born in Coronel Pringles, Argentina, in 1949. He has published at least ninety books.

The poet Chris Andrewsteaches at the University of Western Sydney, Australia, where he is a member of the Writing and Society Research Center. He has translated books by Roberto Bolaño and César Aira for New Directions.

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