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The Literary Conference

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3.79 of 5 stars 3.79  ·  rating details  ·  637 ratings  ·  102 reviews
New in the New Directions Pearls series: an extremely rich mad scientist attempts to clone a leading genius in a bid to take over the world. César is a translator who’s fallen on very hard times due to the global economic downturn; he is also an author, and a mad scientist hell-bent on world domination. On a visit to the beach he intuitively solves an ancient riddle, finds ...more
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Published May 25th 2010 by New Directions (first published 1997)
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(showing 1-30 of 1,166)
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Mike Puma
Apr 05, 2011 Mike Puma rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Mike by: Roberto Bolaño

I like weird books. What can I say? I like books of the sort that cause some to roll their eyes and wonder “WTF is this? People read this shit?”—the sorts of books that are hard to place by genre, other than that anti-genre sometimes called Literary Fiction. The ones that frequently provoke one-word reviews: Boring! The sorts of fiction that prompt sneers of ‘book snob’ or, in my case, ‘dilettante’ (it’s cool, I’ve been called worse).

I don’t care so much about the story. I do, of course, care a

...more
Tanuj Solanki
I am not kidding when I say that Cesar Aira is the most fiercely free writer I have read. He is one whose greatness relies on the vehemence against great tome-y literature. I have described his writing methods in reviews of other books by him, so I won't go into those. Suffice it to say that he is almost always writing a manifesto for his style, which includes a liquid and senseless plot that the narrator keeps tangling and untangling (the efforts are for all to see). You read the manifesto and ...more
Jim
César Aira is the Roomba of literature. Like the little robotic vacuum cleaner that goes off in all directions, he keeps going straight forward until he bumps against an obstruction, then that straight line becomes a series of Ptolemaic epicycles that delight in their wild divagations.

As the result of pure chance, the narrator -- also called César -- discovers a pirate treasure that makes him fabulously rich. As a combination playwright and mad scientist, he decides to clone the Mexican author C
...more
Jimmy
The main character in this book sets up a metaphor of himself as a Mad Scientist. But this metaphor is actually more apt for Cesar Aira himself, as his books always seem like experiments in the best sense of the word. But not the type of experimental writing (a la Joyce or Stein) that is more interested in pure language play (not that Aira isn’t interested in language, but it is only one part of his experiment)... In most experimental writing you at least have a sense of the experiment being som ...more
Lee
A sci-fi autofiction entertainment. One big LOL at revelation of the provenance of the beasts causing trouble toward the end. Inventive, unpredictable, cartoonish, forward-flowing, good-natured (sometimes to a twee-ish fault?), self-consciously whimsical (aware of yet unable to resist the temptation to follow the author's whim), metafictional, sometimes maybe a little too apt to explore the old reality/irreality questions (?), a tactic that bores a hole in my attention (see Bioy Casares's The In ...more
jeremy
the literary conference, a slim work by the very productive césar aira, is both fantastic and inventive. the argentinian author has written over sixty books, though, as yet, only five have been translated into english (a sixth, the seamstress and the wind, is slated for release early this summer). this novella, defying easy categorization, incorporates elements from a number of different genres.

aira's main character, a translator and playwright, sets about fulfilling his dream of world dominatio
...more
Ben Winch
Nothing could please me more than an appropriation of B-movie tropes in a mock-literary context by a wickedly talented author in the service of absurdism. Unfortunately, unless I'm missing something, this isn't it. Plotless and essayistic I can handle, if the author has something to say, or if he says nothing in a beautiful way. But Aira says nothing clumsily with maximum confusion. Dead, dull, uninspired – for this piece of empty bravado I reserve the special hatred we feel when someone we had ...more
Rowena
I came across this book by accident and decided to read it, despite reading some not-so promising reviews.The premise of the story is a mad scientist who tries to clone famous writer Carlos Fuentes. I enjoyed most things about this book; the storyline, the language used and the narrator's inner monologue in particular. It's a very enjoyable novella,and a quick read. I didn't care too much for how the book ended but I'm definitely interested to read more of Aira's books.
Trevor
The Literary Conference borders on . . . no, delves into the ridiculous — in the best way possible. A superlative stylist (and being translated by the superlative Katherine Silver), Aira’s matter-of-fact tone somehow manages to stay in tact in a book that begins as a puzzle-adventure in Venezuela, turns into a mad-scientist take-over-the-world science-fiction, and ends as a B-movie — and still manages to be about the creation of art.

Allow me to elaborate:

In the first section, “The Macuto Line,”
...more
Jordan Hale
I liked this book. And I say that with a bit of hesitation because the amount of liking I feel about this book just goes over the line into liking that is drawn in the sand between dislike and like.

This was a strange reading experience. As far as narrative goes, this one has very little, and that is really saying something since the book is only 90 pages long. But in a metaficitonal way, the book is fine with that.

You see, this book is alive in a way. It goes off on tangents and refers to 'tra
...more
Vogisland
Jan 12, 2011 Vogisland rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Th Mza
Recommended to Vogisland by: Johann Moritz Rugendas
Shelves: fiction
Superhero pulp & big ideas: a mad scientist, cloning, a Genesis play (my favorite chapter), the (male) power fantasy, the reflexive nature of writing, etc.

When I first read Haruki Murakami years ago, I think I was looking for something closer to Aira. His steadfast commitment to the "flight forward" technique (it is impossible to read without thinking about this technique: ideas are raised & then dropped abruptly for new directions, revisited only to launch new tangents) and to brevity
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Jacob Wren
This is a profoundly neurotic book.
Matthew
The "flight forward" technique (pushing the story onward with any device available to the writer's imagination, hurdling over the pauses and revisions necessary to create logical, believable plot developments) seems more attractive to me as an idea than as demonstrated in this short novel. But apparently Aira cranks out a handful of these short novels each year, and a very uneven output should be expected. I wonder what the best examples from this writer are.

Sometimes I'm unsatisfied with autho
...more
Tom Lichtenberg
An interesting Goodreads person, whose reviews I enjoy, gave a pretty negative review to a different book by this author, but the things he didn't like about it were the kind of things I usually look for - whimsicality (his word), restlessness, metafiction, genre-mixing and humor. It sounded like Aira's work would be right up my alley, a lot like the kind of books I write (short, absurdist, comic-surrealist, sincerely weird), and it turned out to be just so. Cesar Aira is Argentinian, and it con ...more
Palma
de los 7 u 8 libros de aira q habré leído (una suma demasiado poca como para un autor como aira (?)), este es uno donde + aparecen referencias a su propio programa de escritura: habla de escribir como si fuera una "leyenda", de desarrollar una "prosa informativa", de plantear una trama esquemática, de q el final precipitado puede parecer una peli de ciencia ficción clase b.
no sé, sea q esté o no en el canon airano, el congreso de lit me pareció muy bueno, pero tampoco sé si lo recomendaría pq m
...more
Shaye
Not often do you come across a work of fiction about real people who are still alive. Incredibly funny--his dry wit is completely preserved in this translation. It's a quick read, perfect to just pick up and finish on a lazy Sunday evening.

It's immensely entertaining. I still laugh out loud just thinking about the outlandishness of this little novel.
Tony
Aira, Cesar. THE LITERARY CONFERENCE. (2006; this trans. 2010). ***. Aira, born in Argentina in 1949, is a prolific writer, having written over seventy books. This book – more a long story – is a mixture of genres that incorporates pseudo-science with pseudo-psychology with a broad dip into early pulp science fiction magazines of the 1940s. Using a combination of stream-of-consciousness writing along with a lot of gobbledy-gook that pretends to move the story forward, you soon realize that there ...more
Greg
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Michael Flick
A comic book without drawings. Appears to have been written in one day (March 8, 1996), takes about 90 minutes to read (maybe 2 hours allowing for some reflection along the way), and delivers laughs. What's not to like? Well, the whole enterprise: the author sat down one day and let his thoughts amble along in writing until evening, when he declared it a book and was done. This fits with the automatic drawing etc. of surrealism and has the same intellectual and emotional weight. And is just as p ...more
Boden Steiner
As stated previously, reading The Literary Conference was like going on a blind date and meeting a beautiful girl that knows exactly what to say and how to say everything that seduces me. I didn't know what to expect from Aira and, after only 90 pages, I still may not know, but this short bit of Goodness had me hooked right away.

Aira plays the part of the main character as a mad genius, a scientist and writer propelled by the unchecked force of his imagination; a John Cleese playing a mad scien
...more
Jim Elkins
Another spectacular book by César Aira. He's uneven, but at his best, he may be the world's best writer. He outpaces conventional narration, magic realism, surrealism, absurdism, and philosophic fiction.

This time I'll zero in on just one quality of his imagination that sets him apart from most other authors. This book begins with a short chapter describing how the author, a certain César, famous writer and "mad scientist," discovers the secret of the "Macuto Line," a mysterious braided cord on t
...more
Matt
I want to say that this is formally interesting, and I want to be pretentious for a minute and compare it to Goya's Capprichios (I think that's how you spell it)-- in the sense that Goya's weird drawings and this novel feel like a doodle, a sketch that is pursued as long as its interesting, which only a slight interest in the overall design.

At least this novella feels like it has that kind of improvisational feel. It's a personalized fantasy about the power of the imagination-- translator, occas
...more
Aaron Broadwell
I love Cesar Aira's writing. This short little book is allegedly about the author's visit to a literary conference in a beautiful resort, at which he is secretly running a cloning machine. The aim of the machine is to duplicate his favorite author, Carlos Fuentes. But the machine goes horribly awry, producing monsters which threaten the existence of the town.

Read on this level, the book is an amusing little romp -- very funny, like a comic science fiction novel. But on another level, the book is
...more
Jeremy
I couldn't keep track of the number of times my jaw dropped from shocked delight while reading this little...thing. Aira just sort of operates in his own crazily intelligent little universe. It reminds me a little bit of Julio Cortazar, with this really deft precise way of turning sentances through and around themselves. But Cortazar was never a mad scientist who tried to clone Carlos Fuentes, and Aira's writing has this laser like preciseness all it's own, which only makes the whole situation, ...more
Joe Milazzo
Not as sublime as VARAMO in its narrative contingencies, but still stuffed with off-handed / throw-away brilliance. Almost decadently so, and for such a slender little book.
Conor
This is the shit. I feel like anything I can say about it would be a spoiler. The best way to experience this novella is to go into it knowing absolutely nothing. The writing is a complete breath of fresh air and cannot really be compared because it is utterly unique.
Thing Two
Quirky, but hilarious, about a man who finds himself suddenly very wealthy and now able to self-fund his desire to clone his favorite author, Carlos Fuentes.
TK421
A beautiful example of what storytelling can be when the idea of plot is castaway into an ocean of words. Absolutely marvelous!
Rafa
Es una pena, con lo bien que escribe, y que se limite a contar historias del doctor Bacterio
Universalman Manuniversal
An Episode in the Life of a Landscape Painter was better than this book. - First I thought I would stick to this stand, but soon realized that César Aira has no interest in pursuing a single theme, he is a multi-disciplinary writer. And this sci-fi-literary account of Aira takes shortcuts in narrating imaginary things and beings, at the same time being useful to aspiring writers.
I won't recommend this book to those who hate simple experiments in story, but to those who have interest in style and
...more
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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
...more
More about César Aira...
An Episode in the Life of a Landscape Painter Ghosts How I Became a Nun Varamo The Seamstress and the Wind

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“The strangeness that made everything sparkle came from me. Worlds rose out of my bottomless perplexity” 5 likes
“…every mind is shaped by its own experiences and memories and knowledge, and what makes it unique is the grand total and extremely personal nature of the collection of all the data that have made it what it is. Each person possesses a mind with powers that are, whether great or small, always unique, powers that belong to them alone. This renders them capable of carrying out a feat, whether grandiose or banal, that only they could have carried out.” 3 likes
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