Ghosts by Cesar Aira

Ghosts (New Directions Paperbook) Permalink: translated by Chris Andrews


I love New Directions Publishing. They're devoted to finding great voices from around the globe, with the strength of story or poem being their sole criteria for selection. If they fall in love with it, they run with it! Can you imagine? I have been introduced to writers I never would have known without them, and my world is richer for it. 


I first read Cesar Aira's Ghost two years ago. The story has stayed with me. Now that I've completed some stories of my own, I'm always looking at craft -- how did the writer manage to draw me in like that? But, first, I let myself be taken away by the words, and take you away, he does. He begins with a grounding in place: a construction site in Buenos Aires; a skeleton of an apartment building; the night watchman's family residing in the becoming -- rooms without windows or doors, unfinished cement, an idea of a building. Aira sets us up with a porousness that allows the ghosts to enter, shrouded in cement dust. They are as real as the building that doesn't quite exist yet. As this one day unfolds, everything is on the verge; the portal is wide open.

Aira's ghosts become a presence that direct the reader's attention toward the play of time. It's the ghosts casualness that unsettled me; they move through floors, hang from a satellite dish on the roof-top terrace, and beckon a young girl in the startling ending. The ghosts do their job.

There is a magic in the translation; a tip of the hat to the translator, Chris Andrews.