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The Little Buddhist Monk / The Proof

3.61  ·  Rating details ·  190 ratings  ·  40 reviews
The Little Buddhist Monk is a story of Asian invention gone wild, as a diminutive Korean Buddhist monk acts as a tour guide to an increasingly distraught French couple on a working vacation in the Far East. The Proof brings us quickly back to the West, where two punks, plus a new recruit  (“Wannafuck?” is the opening line as the two punk lesbians accost the chubby and shy ...more
Paperback, 224 pages
Published May 30th 2017 by New Directions
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Probably not the best place to start with Aira. Of the two stories/novellas, The Little Buddhist Monk was the better of the two.
Dec 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
2021 reread: I'm doing this thing where I'm not buying any new books right now and I'm rereading the Aira I've read, and I remember this one was the book that made me decide Aira was the best thing alive. In rereading it, The Little Buddhist Monk does not contain the same feeling of dread and unease that I felt the first time I read it -- if you're not waiting for the other shoe to drop, then it takes quite a long time to, and much of the book is a lot more normal than I remembered. The ending i ...more
May 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: translation, fiction
two novellas from the prolific argentine master, the little buddhist monk (el pequeño monje budista) & the proof (la prueba) are quintessential aira. both stories, though wildly dissimilar, embody the aira-ian (airaesque?) impulse of genre-shifting narrative. in these cases, one bends toward techno-dream eeriness, as the other turns ultra-violent — each ending up far afield from where they began. one (of the many) joys of reading césar aira is his seemingly limitless imagination, unconventionali ...more
Jun 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
These two short novelettes by Cesar Aira run the gamut from Korea to Buenos Aires. In the first, a French couple are taken in hand by a strange little Buddhist monk who speaks their language and acts as a fixer in seting up a photo shoot for them. But in so doing, he misses the start of a television program gining details about the clitoris.

The second story is about two punk girls who try to pick up a straight girl for lesbian sex. As she resists them, the two pickup artists ramp up their effort
Feb 28, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2021-groundwork
Rounded up.

It’s always a toss-up as to whether Aira’s improvisatory style will serve or sabotage his stories. LBM and The Proof are complimentary in that the majority of the former is served by Aira’s improvisation up until we reach the conclusion, while the latter is undermined by it until the final scene, when the improvisation kicks into a heinous, rapturous overdrive and triumphantly (though disturbingly) saves the whole thing.

What’s simultaneously frustrating and easy to love about Aira is
Mar 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
I wouldn't say this is a great translation. Some things definitely felt weird but maybe it was translated into British English? Either way, the first short story about the Buddhist monk feels whimsical and weird, reminiscent of Haruki Murakami. The Proof, the second short story, is darker- almost reminded me of Quentin Tarantino. Super quick read. ...more
Feb 18, 2019 rated it did not like it
Worst book I ever read. Almost. Both stories. Can't even go into it. I spent 9 weeks slogging through it. I am now FREE. ...more
May 17, 2021 rated it it was ok
The Little Buddhist Monk may not be the best starter story for Aira (I didn't read Proof). Either that, or he's not for me. I heard somewhere that he writes through improvisation rather than by editing and refining - an 'always forward, never back' approach. This isn't the same as 'stream-0f-consciousness', so I was curious. Plus there was something irresistible about the title. The story started out charmingly enough, but about halfway through it began to feel like a wind-up toy, arbitrarily pu ...more
Jul 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is a bindup of two of Cesar Aira's novellas - THE LITTLE BUDDHIST MONK and THE PROOF. They were both grounded in a visceral reality that I could clearly place myself into, but that reality was punctuated by bits and pieces of the surreal.

In THE LITTLE BUDDHIST MONK, a French photographer and his wife travel to Korea to visit Buddhist temples and take 360-degree photos for an art project. They don't speak the language, and are delighted to serendipitously run into this monk who is almost a
Bill Hsu
Jun 25, 2017 rated it did not like it
Shelves: abandoned
Well it's very hard for me to not be enthusiastic about The Proof. After all, see the blurb for the opening line, and the punk lesbians are named Mao and Lenin.


Update: one star for The Proof. That ending, ouch. You expect me to be fair about Little Buddhist Monk after this?
Feb 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
The Proof was surreal and also lovely.
The Little Buddhist Monk lost itself somewhere near the end.
But totally worth it.
Feb 01, 2018 rated it did not like it
The Little Buddhist Monk was an enjoyable read up until the end which left me hanging.

The Proof was cringe-worthy from the start, so I didn't finish this story.
Dec 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
A collection of two Cesar Aira novellas, each a little shorter than his usual short works.

The first novella "The Little Buddhist Monk", contains every element of my favorite Aira stories; and could be counted among his better works. Surprising, magical, funny, strange, bizarre, fucked up, and hallucinatory in the best way imaginable. Reading it was a thrill.

The second, "The Proof", stands among some of my lesser favorite Aira books. (Even though I love him, he can be a little "hit or miss" for
Like all of Aira's work, these two novellas are funny, ethereal, beautifully written, and a bit madcap.

The first César Aira book I read was The Literary Conference, which remains one of my favorites. (It's always hard to tell in cases like this: is it my favorite because it's one of his best or is it my favorite because it was my first?) That book was (in my opinion) such a clear metaphor for the act of writing; e.g. it was a novel about writing a novel. So now every time I read something by Ai
L.S. Popovich
May 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
This small double-feature novella surprised me. I had only read My Life as a Nun by Aira. He’s an odd writer. Like Calvino and Bolano, but containing something of his own as well. He is memorable and forgettable at the same time. He’s easy to read, which is a plus, but only re-readable in bits and pieces. At least that is the feeling I get from these two novellas. They seem like the work of an amateur who has mastered what amateurs only dream of doing. He tells a compelling tale which is entirel ...more
Jul 27, 2019 added it
At the heart of both The Little Buddhist Monk and The Proof, two novellas by Cesar Aira, lies a misunderstanding, at which heart, I think, lies an Airaesque joke, relayed on the first novella:

"The conflict had arisen between two branches of Buddhism who were arguing about the way to tell jokes. One of them, innovatory thanks to Western influence (and which ultimately was triumphant) proposed telling them with the punchline at the end. The other school resisted any change, and defended the tra
Jake Ayres
Jan 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
These novellas are classic Aira. They simmer and pop with philosophic waxing, deft dialogue, and the one of a kind narration that we have come to expect in his stories.

Both stories are translated by Nick Caistor, who I was not familiar with. I'm so used to reading Aira through the lens of his long-time translator Chris Andrews that I was a little skeptical about a newcomer to the César scene, but about 5 pages into The Little Buddhist Monk my worries were at ease. Caistor's translation feels ju
Jun 13, 2017 rated it liked it
The Proof is borderline horrible and unusual for Aira, who tone is usually whimsical, which trims the edges of even his more serious moments. In contrast, The Proof is an exercise in manipulative nihilism, with all of the political, societal, and moral repulsiveness and insincerity that comes with it. I'm not sure why Aira wasted his time writing it, his Argentine publisher printed it, Nick Caistor translated it, and New Directions republished it. The Little Buddhist Monk is more in line with Ai ...more
Jul 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
Two novellas that both get strange. The strange is expected with Aira. The Little Buddhist Monk deals with space and perceptions. Not outer space but spaces and architecture etc. I did follow the story but I'm not completely sure I got the message. The second novella deals with punk lesbians and gets strange too. Both books are told in a campfire fashion, In the sense that the weirdness progresses as the story progresses. ...more
Dec 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: short-fiction
With Aira, only the strange is expected and both of these novellas take huge left turns at the end. Peppered with wisdom and humour, don't take this collection too seriously and enjoy. I preferred the science-myth eeriness of the first story, but the psychology of The Proof was very intriguing. For fans of genre-shifting narratives that defy expectation. ...more
Feb 06, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: novels
The Little Buddhist Monk 3/5 - I really enjoyed this story up until the final pages. I wasn't a fan of the plot twist thrown in at the end, felt like it was rushed into a conclusion that could've been handled better

The Proof 4/5 - Similar to the previous story in terms of the fact that there's a plot twist near the end though I feel that this story carried it off better, random as it was
Sep 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
Delightful, odd, philosophical, and hilarious. How Cesar Aira manages to twist stories in completely surprising ways, and in such few pages, is amazing and a pure joy to read. This book ties at #1 with How I Became a Nun on my 'favorite Cesar Aira' books' list. ...more
Matt Brown
May 31, 2017 rated it really liked it
The Little Buddhist Monk: 4/5
The Proof: 5/5
Jerry Pogan
Jun 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
Aira writes such short novellas that they can easily be read in one sitting. This collection of two stories was not as good as some of his others but he is still an enjoyable read.
Aster Wamser
Jun 10, 2017 rated it liked it
Pretty good. I liked it
Jul 02, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: owned
i would like to hear more of the little buddhist monk
Sep 25, 2017 rated it liked it
I LOVED "The Little Buddhist Monk," but was not as engaged with "The Proof" ...more
Charlie Kruse
May 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
I love Aira, and these two stories are some of his funnest translated yet. They rule
David Macpherson
Jun 18, 2020 rated it really liked it
Reading aira is a trip. It can be exhausting. His vision of the world is out of control and wonderful to go for the ride. The first wee book was about a french couple in korea going on a tour with a tiny monk. It ends off on a tangent, but it was enjoyable. The second one has two "punk" girls attempt to seduce a teenager girl and it goes into a bloody crime spree. I think this one will stay with me because it was clunky and perceptive at the same time. Some strong parts and some clumsy sections ...more
Jeffrey Bumiller
Feb 07, 2020 rated it liked it
2.5 stars to The Little Buddhist Monk & 3.5 stars to The Proof. Averaging out to 3 stars, I guess. This might not have been the best place to start with Aira. I can tell that there's something worthy in his writing, but these two stories didn't really do it for me considering the expectations that I had. ...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

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