BIRTHDAY by César Aira

BIRTHDAY

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KIRKUS REVIEW

One of Argentina’s most talented and celebrated iconoclasts meditates on his 50th birthday.

The wildly prolific writer Aira (The Linden Tree, 2018, etc.) looks back on his life in the wake of his 50th birthday—with a book that's published in English to coincide with his 70th. As per his modus operandi, it’s a slim but thoughtful affair, punctuated by numerous bons mots, acidic self-deprecation, and cutting observations about the world around him. It starts with a mundane quarrel with his wife—“who doesn’t always appreciate my sense of humor"—about the phases of the moon and proceeds apace. “It would be less dramatic, but much more plausible, to say that it wasn’t a moment but a process: the process of wasting time, which is long by its very nature,” Aira writes. “At my age, it’s impossible to contemplate the eternities of time that I wasted in my youth without a certain horror….The hours, the days, the years, the decades squandered. And it is poetically just, in a way, that the apparent victim should have been the moon, that poetic reminder of wasted time.” It’s a trifle when compared to the author’s body of work, but it’s an eminently readable one, rife with keen observations about passers-by, notes about the author’s unique style and why it changed over time, and ruminations on how the author has dealt with the inscrutable eventualities of aging. As with all this writer’s outlandish novels, numbering nearly 100 by this point, the writing is whimsical, humorous, and poignant by turns. Yet there’s still a finality by the end that readers of Aira’s age may find painfully true: “To write, you have to be young; to write well, you have to be a young prodigy. By the time you get to fifty, much of that energy and precision is gone.”

A fanciful contemplation of the writer's life that is not quite a novel or a memoir but a whimsical combination of the two.

Pub Date: Feb. 26th, 2019
ISBN: 978-0-8112-1909-9
Page count: 128pp
Publisher: New Directions
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15th, 2018




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