The OF Blog: An interesting quote from a literary study I'm reading

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

An interesting quote from a literary study I'm reading

Currently reading Lauren Elkin and Scott Esposito's recently-released The End of Oulipo?, which touches upon the possibilities that could conceivably still be mined from this famous literary movement.  I am particularly enjoying right now Esposito's opening essay, in which he makes this observation about the work of Argentine writer César Aira (an author I've praised here before, if not quite as coherently as in the quote below):

The yield from Aira's experimentation is a distinct, idiosyncratic feeling of lightness that infuses his prose, as well as an openness to juxtaposition that creates unusual metaphors and novelistic structures.  The ideas of spontaneity and improvisation are constant tropes in Aira's literature; he has claimed that when he writes in cafes he regularly puts into his fiction whatever he happens to observe, no matter how incongruous to whatever he is writing at the moment.  But this is far from the semi-automatic writing of Jouet:  a day's work for Aira will occasionally yield a page of writing, and he has stated that he throws away far more novels than he completes after being disappointed with his results.  Aira relies on his eccentric method to spur his intellect and harness improvisation, but he does not subsume his creativity to it.  Also in contrast to Jouet – fêted as a member of the Oulipo and published by France's most prestigious presses –  Aira is constantly at odds with the market, viciously satirizing literary culture and artistic pretension while publishing his books with tiny micropresses on the margins of the Argentine scene.  Aira has tipped the sacred cows of Latin American letters and argued passionately for new heroes; his authentically polemical spirit puts the lie to Jouet's critiques from within the mainstream (p. 49/135, e-book)

I could easily quote more, but this alone has made me reconsider when I am planning to re-read/read more of Aira's fictions (there is a new e-book edition of his short fiction, Relatos reunidos, that comes out on Valentine's Day in the US).  The description of Aira's approach and how it touches upon and then diverges from "traditional" Oulipo approaches provides a framework from which I myself, a reader of several of Aira's short novels in Spanish, can re-evaluate his work and test the observations that Esposito has made in his essay.  If I like nothing else from The End of Oulipo? (a lie, as I did like some of the comments on Georges Perec), then this little segment alone has made the book worth reading.

Don't know when I'll write a formal review, though.  May write an essay in conjunction with my recent reading of the newly-expanded English translation of Raymond Queneau's Exercises in Style that came out back in January.  If so, it'll likely appear first on Gogol's Overcoat and then here after some delay, as I'm going to be alternating between posting original essays/reviews there and here, depending upon the subject matter.

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