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Comment: All profits go to Housing Works -- NYC's largest HIV/AIDS organization. Minimal wear to cover. Pages clean and binding tight. Paperback.
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Varamo Paperback – February 22, 2012

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Varamo + The Miracle Cures of Dr. Aira + An Episode in the Life of a Landscape Painter (New Directions Paperbook)
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 89 pages
  • Publisher: New Directions; 1 edition (February 22, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0811217418
  • ISBN-13: 978-0811217415
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #419,683 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


“An avant-garde literature that combines the impossible with the real, a literature in which every statement of fact suggests its opposite and even casual observations and plot twists are turned upside down.” (Michael Greenburg - The New York Review of Books)

Varamo, like all the Aira books in translation, is charming and infuriating, built of plain prose that blooms without warning into carbuncular visions.” (Ben Raliff - The New York Times Book Review)

“Aira's prose can be slapdash, but the book teems with delightful, off-the-cuff metaphysical speculation.” (The New Yorker)

“Aira's literary significance, like that of many other science fiction writers, comes from how he pushes us to question the porous line between fact and fantasy, to see it not only as malleable in history, but also blurred in the everyday. The engrossing power of his work, though, comes from how he carries out these feats: with the inexhaustible energy and pleasure of a child chasing after imaginary enemies in the park.” (Los Angeles Review of Books)

“The book is structured around a series of chance encounters, while also giving Aira some asides on broader concepts like the nature of perception, the promises of narrative form, and human thought.” (Publishers Weekly)

“The novel, in enacting the criticism it mocks, is playful and clever.” (The Rumpus)

“Each element Aira draws our attention to is placed into sharp focus before being discussed in short, entertaining digressions. If anything, the book implies a distrust of the very notion of plot, a comfort with play, and that is why I feel it grasps something of value. Once again Aira has given us a series of memorable, highly interpretable images held together by gossamer strings of meaning.” (The National)

“The latest English translation in Aira’s enormous corpus, Varamo accommodates his fondness for mixing metaphysics, realism, pulp fiction, and an attention to the raw strangeness of life’s ordinary details... The eccentricity of plot here is its own pleasure, but the slow, carefully written digressions it enfolds are what make the work such extravagant fun.” (Alice Whitwam - Coffin Factory)

“Slim, cerebral, witty, fanciful, and idiosyncratic.” (Boston Review)

“With a light, almost hypnotic style, Aira creates an intriguing balance between realism and comedic absurdity.” (Critical Mob)

“The overriding impression of Varamo is one of facility that dips periodically into facileness. Aira encounters the elements of his story as Varamo stumbles upon his masterpiece, by chance, as objets trouvés, and enjoyable as it is to see each pulled in turn from the hat, even a short novel built on such a principle can’t help but demonstrate the principle’s limits. Flaubert, the presiding genius of literature as sealed artifact, once claimed that he took such endless pains with his style precisely because was not naturally gifted with words. Aira is a manifestly gifted writer who may find writing all too easy a job.” (Quarterly Conversation)

About the Author

César Aira was born in Coronel Pringles, Argentina, in 1949. Wildly popular in Latin America, he has published more than seventy books of short fictions and essays.

The poet Chris Andrews has translated many books by Roberto Bolaño and César Aira for New Directions.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Michael J. Ettner on February 20, 2012
Format: Paperback
There is a scene in VARAMO in which the protagonist, whose name supplies the novel's title, finds himself in a café seated at a table occupied by three book publishers. They're a cynical bunch. One of them encourages the inexperienced Varamo to try his hand at writing:

"In barbaric lands like the Americas, writers produce their best work before learning the craft, and nine times out of ten, their first book was their strongest, as well as being, in general, the only one they wrote."

The prescription Varamo receives from his tablemates is this: First, write down some story notes. Then, "write out the notes one after another with some commentary in between. Try not to tidy them up too much; immediacy is the key to a good style."

Only a handful of César Aira's fifty-plus novels have been translated into English, which means it's impossible for non-Spanish readers to identify his best work. Yet from the pattern of the available work it's beginning to look like Aira, despite his fecundity and his omnivorous instincts, is following the advice of the publisher in the café: This mad creator writes only one novel -- and VARAMO is such a one.

The book, set in the Panamanian city of Colón in the year 1923, moves through a single evening and night experienced by a timid and lovelorn 50-year-old Panamanian civil servant. As is his common practice, Aira's "notes" are strung into a somewhat disjointed but ever forward-moving "chain of events." Improvisation is the order of the day.

Varamo leaves work after receiving his salary which, he notices with alarm, consists of two counterfeit 100 peso notes. He returns home to care for his paranoid mother. Up in his lab he works on a taxidermy project.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Tom Lichtenberg on August 25, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
"The idea was to simulate naturalness, in other words, to make it up as he went along. That might have seemed the easiest thing in the world, the paragon of easiness, but in fact there was nothing more difficult."

This quote from Varamo, by Cesar Aira, suggests the author's own methodology. Aira is said to begin with an idea or two and then just go with it, writing full steam ahead and never looking back, never making revisions or altering what has come before no matter how the story develops. His books are short novels, generally around the same length, full of unpredictability and invention, occasionally interrupted with philosophical or literary musings before bounding off again in any direction whatever. So far, six of his several dozen books have been translated into English and published by New Directions. I've now read all of those.

Varamo is typical Aira in many ways. There seems to be no possible way to get from his point A to his point B, yet you know full well from the start that he will definitely negotiate a path. Varamo begins when a minor civil servant is paid in counterfeit currency, and ends with his creation of a landmark masterpiece of Latin American poetry, though he is no poet and never wrote anything before or afterward. Along the way there are any number of remarkable and wholly unforeseeable twists and turns. Rather than whodunnits, Aira writes "whadeydos". They did what? They what? Then what? Really? Are you kidding me?

It's impossible to describe the innards of an Aira book without revealing the spoilers which constitute the great pleasure of reading them.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By jafrank on September 18, 2012
Format: Paperback
Aira's ability to create these surreal, domestic little fabulations seems to have no end. He blends melodrama, farce, technical data and latin American history together around a weirdly compelling protagonist whose greatest achievement in life the entire book basically serves as a run up to. The more metaphysical strain in Aira's writing comes out in full force in Varamo more than it does in some of his other books, his musings about causality, art, repetition and finitude are as deftly handled and as thoughtful as they ever are. It might lack the jaw dropping brilliance of Episode in the life of a landscape painter, but Varamo is still very much a book about creators and creating, and since the character in question goes on to create a poem that we know little to nothing about, the whole thing feels a bit more artistically biographical than some of Aira's other works
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By WB on August 2, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
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