César Aira: “The Nobel always requires non-literary justification”

The prolific Cesar Aira (Coronel Pringles, 1949) has been awarded the Formentor 2021 prize. This is how he became the fourth Argentine –Borges included — that he does it. The jury, moved by his “tireless recreation of narrative momentum, the versatility of his endless story and the playful irony of his impatient imagination “, has had fewer doubts than ever, according to the teacher. Anna Caballe.

In the press conference and the interview prior to the event, it was inevitable to talk about awards; from Formentor, yes, but from the Nobel too. César Aira had stated long ago that, if he chose an award, he would choose any one who was financially well endowed; some like the Formentor, in which the winner receives fifty thousand euros. However, he does not contemplate winning the Nobel: “They will never give it to me. Those prizes require a justification, and it is always a non-literary justification. They have never given it to you simply for how well you write,” he said. . For Aira, “the Nobel Prize for Literature is the other prize won by the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize”, because a Gurnah “The jury has considered him for his fight against colonialism, for what he has suffered … but they don’t say anything about literature.” And he also believes that it has been like this for a long time: “The great writers have disappeared. Thirty or forty years ago there were still writers like Fournier or Hemingway; now there are no longer any greats, that is why the Nobel Prize is given to a stranger from any country, “said the Argentine.

My education was flawed. Something went wrong. I did not accept to be educated as other people are educated, “he confesses

On the other hand, Aira does not believe that literature has a social function; he argues that it is a “game”, of “art for art’s sake.” For the rest – the social, the community, the moral – “there are already the politicians.” And the journalists, who are the ones who have to raise awareness of the bad thing that happens, but not the writers. “Good feelings kill literature”, the Argentine sentenced at a press conference. In addition, he affirms that “true literature is written by a young man; a very young young man”, because he is “someone who has not yet lived” and who is safe from the “experience of life”. Consequently, he argues that “the writer of writers, the only truly great was Ducasse, the Count of Lautréamont, who died at the age of twenty-four and had written a wonderful book about a schoolboy, a boy who has read and knows nothing about life “.

Between ‘Superman’ and Borges

When asked about his way of creating, he confesses that he does not have the “sensual taste for words” typical of poets and that his imagination proceeds from images. That is why, in fact, he likes comics; especially the Superman of the fifties, “what collectors call ‘the silver age'”: “I went from Superman to Borges,” he says. It also acknowledges that it is an intuitive writer: he does not correct, does not revise, and does not plan the stories boldly because they come out as he writes. He can’t even stop to think when he stagnates: “Sometimes I get to a point where I don’t know how to continue and if I think about it, nothing occurs to me. But, if I keep writing, then yes. It’s like something magical that it happens with the writing: it is doing to itself “.

I would continue writing even if there was not a single reader left in the world, “explains Aira.

Aira, who feels comfortable when they call him a “rare writer” – he says he prefers to be “very rare” – explains his style by comparing himself to Dalí, since both have a baroque imagination and express themselves through a technique – or prose, in the case of the Argentine— refined and academic, “crystalline and simple.” And they do, of course, because the work would not support that the technique of any of them was as baroque as their imagination. All in all, it ensures that es more classical or neoclassical than baroque and that, despite being called a “cult writer,” he tries not to demand too much from his readers. In his stories he pursues “the greatest possible clarity”, and that is why he tries to maintain linearity: he likes “to tell stories from the beginning to the end”, without “jumping in time like Vargas Llosa”. “I need that expository clarity to be able to take my inventions further. If a very strange story occurs to me, I have to write it very clearly,” he says.

In addition to being a writer, César Aira thinks of himself as a reader; a peculiar reader who when he takes an interest in an author reads all his work. Remember that the last book that made you laugh out loud – “I choked with laughter” – was The Magic Christian, from Terry southern. But, for him, the question is not to laugh with the reading, but to smile. Thus, he compares the pleasure that reading arouses with that caused by writing: both are intellectual pleasures, but, while the first is “porous and superficial,” the second is, as he said. Stendhal, “dense and deep”.

Reading also supported his education: “My education was defective. Something went wrong. I did not accept to be educated as other people are educated; perhaps out of pride or arrogance, I said that I was going to educate myself by reading. That was what I did. that at some point I realized that I was not prepared to face the world, but the world adapted to me “, shared with Vozpópuli. However, Aira is against encouraging reading. Or, at least, that the State encourages it. He argues that literature “was always a minority thing, of few people” and that it must continue to be voluntary.

The Argentine is the type of writer who deals well with loneliness, but thinks that this is not a monopoly of literature: “The cinema is also lonely. I like to see it alone at home, as if reading a book. The social aspect of cinema, or of any art, doesn’t appeal to me. ” When it comes time to write, however, it is not locked: He goes to the cafes in his neighborhood, where he writes his daily page (sometimes two) and does not spend a single minute reviewing or correcting. And, although he thinks of his readers when he writes, he assures that “he would continue to write even if there was not a single reader left in the world.”

At the award ceremony, the jury – chaired by Basilio Baltasar and made up of Anna Caballe, Juan Antonio Masoliver Ródenas, Gerald martin and Francisco Ferrer Lerin– He assured that the award seeks to recognize Aira’s entire career (to date, made up of more than one hundred works). And precisely because of his career – artistic and vital – we asked the writer: “My time was good. In the sixties there was a great cultural ferment. Later, societies began to close down.” Except for a brief period that he spent in jail for “a peccadillo of youth” that he committed for “believing in politics”, his life has been “a fairy tale.” A fairy tale, by the way, in which politics no longer has a place: “I ended up being apolitical,” says the Argentine writer resigned.

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César Aira: “The Nobel always requires non-literary justification”

Hank Gilbert