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3.76 of 5 stars 3.76  ·  rating details  ·  564 ratings  ·  92 reviews
Unmistakably the work of César Aira, Varamo is about the day in the life of a hapless government employee who, after wandering around all night after being paid by the Ministry in counterfeit money, eventually writes the most celebrated masterwork of modern Central American poetry, The Song of the Virgin Boy. What is odd is that, at fifty years old, Varamo “hadn’t previous ...more
Published February 22nd 2012 by New Directions (first published 1999)
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(showing 1-30 of 1,111)
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Mike Puma
Mar 06, 2012 Mike Puma rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fewer than the few

Tough call on this one—a very tough call.

It’s become commonplace for me to begin or end these meager reviews with the caution: Not for everyone. Or, a recommendation to “the few.” The same caveat applies to Varamo; this is not fiction for the casual reader. I know, I know, arrogant, but there it is. For those who are story-dependent, this would not be my first suggestion…or third…or one hundredth. Better, perhaps, is to recommend this one to those who like books about books or writing—FICTION a

Emir Never
Dec 15, 2014 Emir Never rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Emir Never by: Aldrin
1923, city of Colon (Panama), Varamo, a 50-year-old third-class clerk, received his payday and proceeded, ten or twelve hours later, to write “the celebrated masterpiece of modern Central American poetry, The Song of the Virgin Child.” Never a poet or a writer before and after this literary interval, Varamo achieved a Bartlebyesque feat, “an inexplicable miracle”.

The narrator of this short piece of work by Cesar Aira explains this miracle by stating that Varamo was paid with counterfeit money i
Most traditional literature is somewhat like a series of nested matryoshka dolls: You come back out the way you go in. In the process, all unresolved issues are neatly resolved (one hopes), and one has experienced a real 19th century experience.

Well, that doesn't seem to be happening any more, except perhaps in some whodunits. It certainly isn't happening in the slim novels of César Aira, an Argentinean from Coronel Pringles who writes the way a Roomba vacuum cleaner robot cleans: He just moves
Based on the reviews I've read, and I even did my best to read a few in spanish, I'm going to say that this little expirement was a failure. I will also say that even fans of Aira's books, who read it because they really like his other books, may think that this is a subpar novel for him. Readers who haven't read any of his books should start elsewhere.

Even so, I'm giving it 5 stars, because I think it's that good. This is a very complicated, very slim, novel about abstraction and critism. Many
Mar 13, 2014 Lee marked it as sampled  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: put-down-for-now
I read the first fifty pages and had no interest in the ploy or writing or character or derivative metafictional pale fire stuff. Aira has written about how the time period during which a book is written should be studied and he time stamps his books at the end -- I suppose there's some exploration of those ideas here, but I just couldn't hang with it, couldn't pay attention, couldn't care less. As Bolano said, I too find Aira mostly boring -- a lot of that is in the approach, the whimsicality, ...more
Ben Loory
god i love this guy. nothing is anything. it's all just movement, and a twirl.
For full review click here: This latest little recently translated gem by Cesar Aira is only 89 pages long but packs in more fanciful ideas and crazy images than you would find in most 200+ page novels. This book took me about an hour to read (maybe a little less) and by the end I felt like I’d just woken up from a really trippy, weird food inspired dream.

The basic plot of the book concerns the titular character, Varamo, a 1920′s government employee in Panama. In the opening
Natalie Hamilton
A wonderful little book about a day in the life of a clerk who concludes his day by writing a famous work of poetry. Beautifully written, philosophical, metafictional. One of Aira's more accessible works, and a fascinating meditation on artistic inspiration.
No one writes like César Aira. His small novellas – usually under a hundred pages – contain line-after-line of sublime prose. Each is a tiny, carefully articulated, universe. Like a miniature diorama you can lose yourself in for hours. The plots, on the other hand, appear relatively straight-forward. Deceptively so, in my opinion.

Varamo is “a third-class clerk” working for the Panamanian government. In the year 1923, during the ten- to twelve-hours described in this novel, he will be inspired an
The back cover of this short novella compares it to Borges, which seems to be a common comparison among Argentine authors, at least the ones more available in English translation. Although if you had asked me, I would have said the book was 80 percent Chesterton (of The Man Who Was Thursday), 15 percent Nabokov (of Pale Fire), and at most 5 percent Borges. And a reasonably well executed version of that.

It describes less than twenty-four hours in the life of a Panamanian civil servant in the 1930
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 ...more
It all started with Ghosts - my first encounter with Aira. We got off on the wrong foot and I can be a moody reader. The Nun book was great, and I liked Literary Conference. This takes me back to that first day when I read and was disappointed, and a little afraid that I was just following the trend. I've still got hopes for Landscape Artist, but otherwise I'm ready to hang it up.
Julie H.
Varamo is a quirky little novella that successfully juggles many themes. On the one hand, it's a 12-hour window into the life of a government worker in 1920s Panama who is jolted out of his well-trodden and issue-laden rut when he is paid late one afternoon in counterfeit bills. On the other hand, it's a supremely self-aware little consideration of such themes as identity, family, nation, power, public opinion, literary production, criticism and creativity.

This was the first of Aira's books tha
I definitely enjoyed the prose, (big fan of Aira in general) and the book over all. My only complaint is the book took me below the surface on philosophical tangents several times that essentially just dangled there. For instance very early on in the book Varamo can not find change for his bills. There being a shortage in money the common man is paid in(coins), as coins are to expensive to manufacture. Those in power are paid in paper money(higher denominations) that are cheaper to make thus no ...more
After having choked on The Hare, Varamo's mutant fish went down much more smoothly. Next up Shantytown.
Genial. Junto con Un episodio en la vida de un pintor viajero y Embalse, me pareció una de las mejores novelas de Aira. El autor despliega todas sus armas literarias para sacar adelante una novela fascinante, que se devela como una pieza de investigación sobre el acto de creación mismo. Encontré los mismos elementos tan característicos y divertidos de Aira que aparecen en cada una de sus novelas. Seres imposibles y mágicos que aparecen a raíz de hechos fortuitos y no tanto, para desencadenar eve ...more
Andrew Kaufman
Another winner! This one, while not haven't the outright surrealism of The Seamstress and the Wind, has a much more, at least for Aira, plot and it really paid off. I love this guy!
Tom Lichtenberg
"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. Hi
Luis Silva
César Aira’s Varamo is a reconstruction of the events that lead a lowly civil servant to the creation of a cultural masterpiece. It is an exploration on the source of inspiration, reminiscent of Jorge Luis Borges’ penchant for turning the abstract discussion of art into the mechanics of a plot. A sort of adventure that is played out on a Pynchonian stage.

Aira presents this story as an essay written in the style of a fictional narrative. The narration even muses on its own use of the free indire
Alex V.
I have a thing for South American poets that write novels about poets that are chasing poetry like a runaway kite. Especially in their short books. This has that charged kind of prose found on Bolaño's By Night In Chile or Aira's own weirdly cool How I Became a Nun, without being quite as good as either of those. I read this cover to cover sitting by the pool in 98 heat and it flew by without either the reader or the protagonist quite knowing what was going on or why we were following the trail ...more
Funny, poetic, sly, and joyful: not a plot summary but a description of how this novella made me feel. I could see how Aira and Bolaño were good friends: both share a sense of the mischievous, an appreciation for serendipity, and political plots. An outline of the action? The hero, Varama, a Panamanian civil servant, is accidentally paid his monthly salary in counterfeit bills, has difficulty in buying a piece of candy on the way home, attempts to taxidermy a fish once home, has dinner with his ...more
Brent Legault
I have never spent an unpleasant minute with Aira. But lately, I've wondered if I wouldn't mind, for a minute or two, feeling upset about something he said or about how he had said it. I read Veramo with a hazy, filmy ease, like what I imagine a tincture of laudanum makes you feel like. No valleys, no peaks, just gently rolling hills for 90ish pages. Aira imparts his brief stories with an amazing sense of purposeful aimlessness. They are "nice." Well, no, some of them are better than nice. It's ...more
Stimulating little novella that deals in many grand and interesting themes, while executing each quirky sentence thoughtfully. An odd delight, not one I'd easily recommend to most folks, but one that left me wholly satisfied.

Here, for your sampling, a passage where the bureaucrat considers how to go about having a rational conversation with his troubled live-in mom: "but how could he have a civilized conversation with that barbarous, instinctive, inhuman being: The Mother? How had other men man
Inge Vermeire
Ik vind het toch altijd jammer als een auteur, die in de kritieken geloofd en geprezen wordt, mij niet weet te overtuigen. César Aira zou één van de belangrijkste Argentijnse schrijvers van zijn generatie zijn maar ik ben halverwege 'De nachtelijke invallen van ambtenaar Varamo' toch gestopt met lezen.

Ik lees geen Spaans en er zijn amper twee boeken van hem vertaald in het Nederlands - misschien lees ik nu net dat éne boek dat mij niet aanspreekt? Misschien is nu nét het minst toegankelijke van
I’m not sure what to make of this. On one level it’s a little silly, like the script to an episode of The Goon Show, and, overall the storyline is silly, but, as with, say, Alice in Wonderland (which is also pretty silly for the most part), the individual segments are fascinating and hold your attention; the concept of a regularity rally where “the aim is to maintain a predetermined speed, and the winner is not the first to arrive, but whoever deviates the least from that speed between the start ...more
N Kalyan
A friend of mine who was meeting me after a long time in a distant city ducked into a bookshop and picked this for me while on his way to meet me. What a terrific pick.

In the ninety pages of slim volume, you find nuggets galore, woven exquisitely into a narrative that begins to get a hold on you. It's about many things, including myth and nation, but all of them to do with language and imagination. Above all, it's about the art and craft of writing. Do read it.

I'll leave you with the closing pa
i found this while browsing in a bookstore in SFO and later happened upon it again in the new books section at my school's library, so i had to read it.

it was introspective and randomly hilarious without feeling gimmicky. i liked the length too. overall, did not disappoint.

this is strange but the way the action was laid out sometimes reminded me of homestuck.

"Beware of procrastination; it's the bane of literature."
Jelena Susak
Četiri zvjezdice samo zbog težine, ponekad je stvarno jako teško pratiti radnju. Inače pametno, ludo, s poantom i apsurdno istovremeno, pravi mali masterpiece.
Državni službenik imena Varamo jednoga dana odlazi na državni šalter po svoju (ničim zasluženu aludira autor) plaću. Odmah primijeti da su novčanice krivotvorene, ali ne reagira, ni sam neznajući zašto. Kad ih uzme u svoju torbu, shvati da je sad kasno za bilo kakvu reakciju jer će on biti optužen za krivotvorenje (više nema dokaza). Cije
wonderful wonderful wonderful.

i'm so in love with this writer right now ... my favorite of his so far has been episode in the life of a landscape painter; but this one comes as a close second ...
Beautifully written and hauntingly funny. The Domy Book Club called it "Kafka meets Charlie Chaplin." The novel is short in length but definitely requires a leafing through afterward (or even a second read) to process the annotations of protagonist, Varamo, throughout the book.
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César Aira (born on February 23, 1949 in Coronel Pringles, Buenos Aires Province) is an Argentine writer and translator, considered by many as one of the leading exponents of Argentine contemporary literature, in spite of his limited public recognition.

He has published over fifty books of stories, novels and essays. Indeed, at least since 1993 a hallmark of his work is an almost frenetic level of
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“He couldn’t believe that sleep had robbed him of this spectacle night after night. Such are the writer’s privileges, he thought, nostalgic already for the present.” 9 likes
“Poison or elixir, narcotic or aphrodisiac, whatever it was, this flower, relic of a day in the life of an accidental writer, an inadvertent counterfeiter leaving his traces in code, the birds were coming to try it, performing a dance for no one and flying up toward the moon.” 1 likes
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