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The Literary Conference

3.63  ·  Rating details ·  1,797 ratings  ·  273 reviews
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 a pirate’s treasure, and becomes a very wealthy man. Even so, César’s bid for world domination comes first and so he attends a literary conf ...more
Paperback, 90 pages
Published May 25th 2010 by New Directions (first published 1997)
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 ·  1,797 ratings  ·  273 reviews

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Glenn Russell
Mar 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorite-books

Do you like innovate, avant-garde fiction polished superfine? Introducing César Aira from Argentina, author of dozens of quirky, quizzical, lyrical novellas and novels, many translated into English, his best known An Episode in the Life of a Landscape Painter, a surreal yarn of a nineteenth century German artist's travels in Latin America and Ghosts, a tale about a haunted luxury apartment complex in the city of Buenos Aires.

Why haven’t I heard of César Aira before? Perhaps because he takes del
Tanuj Solanki
Jan 22, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Jul 30, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Mar 01, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: translation, fiction
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
Jul 14, 2010 rated it liked it
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
Mar 16, 2021 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, argentina
To sum up: César, a translator who moonlights as a mad scientist, plans to take over the world by cloning a great genius - naturally, the Mexican author Carlos Fuentes. The artificial wasp he sends to get a cell from Fuentes accidentally grabs a bit of his silk tie, so it clones a suit and then spawns an army of silkworms, which then rampage all over Mérida. Is this over the top? Sure. But writers being self-indulgent every so often is not a bad thing.
Jim Elkins
Oct 09, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: argentine
How to Avoid Magic Realism, Surrealism, Logic, and Structure

Another spectacular book by César Aira. He's very uneven, but at his best, he has occasionally been the world's best writer. He can outpace 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 sc
Lee Klein
Jun 24, 2011 rated it liked it
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
Ben Winch
Sep 24, 2012 rated it did not like it
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
Dec 27, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: latin-america
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. ...more
Oct 13, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 1997
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,”
Jacob Wren
This is a profoundly neurotic book.
Dec 02, 2013 rated it it was ok
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
Feb 21, 2012 rated it it was amazing
2021: When I first read The Literary Conference, it essentially blew my face off -- perhaps my first time ever having that "I didn't know books could be like this" feeling that only assholes have. For some reason I did absolutely nothing about it. Years later, a friend I'd lost touch with emailed me (for no clear reason) to say we should do a book swap (a thing we have not done again before or since), and for some reason she (totally randomly) sent me another Aira book to read. This was what it ...more
May 10, 2010 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jordan Hale
Nov 16, 2012 rated it liked it
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
Mar 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
Much more enjoyable than Shantytown, and despite being much stranger, somehow more believable.
For me, the true pleasure of this little romp comes in the final 30 pages or so. Theme and action intertwine so cleanly for such a convoluted seeming work. The nature of creation and revision, the relationship of creators to their’s explored in an insane way. Novel and insane.
Fun read. 4.5

I wonder what else from Aira is worth a look.
Big Al
Jul 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
As is always the case with Aira... what the hell did I just read?! :)
Bud Smith
Jan 25, 2021 rated it it was amazing
hell yes—starts off ridiculous and then gets ludicrous and then goes full plaid
Tom Lichtenberg
Mar 09, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Michael Flick
Mar 02, 2011 rated it it was ok
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
Jan 06, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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 (superco
Chad Post
Jan 20, 2011 rated it really liked it
Still think Aira's "Ghosts" is the best of his books in English, but this tale of a mad scientist/writer/translator (a suddenly wealthy mad scientist) with plans to "expand his dominion over the world" by cloning Carlos Fuentes is really fun in all of the mad scientist's baroque thought patterns and the comic bookish plot are really entertaining. ...more
Feb 22, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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.
Dec 19, 2019 rated it liked it
Recommended to Sookie by: Glenn Russell
3 stars, I liked it.

This is a comic, its fantasy, its a hilarious origin story of a maybe super villain and along the way, the narrator, Cesar, talks about metaphysical stuff.

Oh, world domination is Cesar's primary goal but that doesn't deter him from the literary conference.
The irony.
Nov 25, 2015 rated it really liked it
this books got it all even worms
Sannidhi Shukla
May 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
my very good friend got me this book because she saw it on my goodreads ‘want to read’ list. she’s a very good gift buyer. i’ve wanted to read aira for a long time but for me, very small and thin books feel like a very luxurious purchase. i think of books in terms of pages per dollar a lot of the time when i’m shopping which i guess is no good but certainly very practical. for that reason i would never have gotten this book without her buying it for me and i’m so glad she did.

i love this book so
Mar 27, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Boden Steiner
May 23, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
Aaron Broadwell
Mar 16, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
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César Aira was born in Coronel Pringles, Argentina in 1949, and has lived in Buenos Aires since 1967. He taught at the University of Buenos Aires (about Copi and Rimbaud) and at the University of Rosario (Constructivism and Mallarmé), and has translated and edited books from France, England, Italy, Brazil, Spain, Mexico, and Venezuela. Perhaps one of the most prolific writers in Argentina, and cer ...more

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