The Divorce by César Aira (Translated from Spanish by Chris Andrews) - review by Patrick Graney

Patrick Graney

Unlucky Break

The Divorce


And Other Stories 120pp £8.99

A lecturer leaves Rhode Island following his recent divorce to gather his thoughts in Buenos Aires. Here he stays at a guest house run by Enrique. While sitting in a cafe, the lecturer witnesses Enrique becoming drenched by the previous night’s rain as it is unleashed from the cafe’s unfurling canopy. This comic incident sets in motion four surreal episodes related directly or indirectly to Enrique’s past. Together they form a hymn to the potential richness of each seemingly insignificant moment.

The Divorce is not really about divorce. Now translated into English for the first time, the Argentine writer César Aira’s 2010 novella is a scintillating exercise in abstraction in which the most minor details take on cosmic proportions. Physical laws are broken too: when a fire breaks out at Enrique’s boarding school, its pupils seek refuge in a scale model of the college and are saved by the ‘sudden change of dimensions’. Along the way we meet a cast of absurd characters, from a reclusive, shed-dwelling sculptor to the god Krishna re-embodied as an irritatingly simple child. It is no surprise when we

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