Myself and a couple of other Montevidayans are currently floating across the Río de la Plata to nearby Buenos Aires. Our occasion: to haunt the living body of work written by the enigmatic César Aira and moan to each other, in alleyways, about our findings.Our first destination is, of course, Ghosts, originally published in 1990 before New Directions blessed us with Chris Andrews’ translation in 2008. The book takes place entirely on December 31st in an unfinished luxury apartment building whose only tenants are a Chilean worker’s family. To kick things off, I have just three questions I’d like Joyelle and Feng Chen to think about on our journey through this wispy 139-pg vortex.
1. Who or what are the ghosts?
2. In this interview, Aira states, “The one thing I’m sure about is that I don’t write novels, an anachronistic genre that exhausted itself in the nineteenth century, experienced all of its posthumous transformations in the twentieth century, and today only retains its relevance in ‘commercial fiction’. What I do might be labelled ‘short stories’ or ‘fiction’, or, more precisely, ‘Dadaist fairytales’.”
How does Ghosts address the novel’s extinction?
3. What is gained, if anything, in an unsentimental suicide?