The Musical Brain: And Other Stories (Hardcover)

The Musical Brain: And Other Stories By César Aira, Chris Andrews (Translated by) Cover Image
By César Aira, Chris Andrews (Translated by)
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A delirious collection of short stories from the Latin American master of micro-fiction.

A delirious collection of short stories from the Latin American master of microfiction, César Aira–the author of at least eighty novels, most of them barely one hundred pages long–The Musical Brain & Other Stories comprises twenty tales about oddballs, freaks, and loonies. Aira, with his fuga hacia adelante or "flight forward" into the unknown, gives us imponderables to ponder and bizarre and seemingly out-of-context plot lines, as well as thoughtful and passionate takes on everyday reality. The title story, first published in the New Yorker, is the creme de la creme of this exhilarating collection.

About the Author

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 certainly one of the most talked about in Latin America, Aira has published more than 100 books to date in Argentina, Mexico, Colombia, Venezuela, Chile, and Spain, which have been translated for France, Great Britain, Italy, Brazil, Portugal, Greece, Austria, Romania, Russia, and the United States. One novel, La prueba, has been made into a feature film, and How I Became a Nun was chosen as one of Argentina’s ten best books. Besides essays and novels Aira writes regularly for the Spanish newspaper El País. In addition to winning the 2021 Formentor Prize, he has received a Guggenheim scholarship, and was shortlisted for the Rómulo Gallegos prize and the Booker International Prize.


The poet and translator Chris Andrews has won the Valle Inclan Prize and the French-American Translation Prize for his work.

Praise For…

Once you start reading Aira, you don't want to stop.
— Roberto Bolaño

Aira’s cubist eye sees from every ­angle. The stories in “The Musical Brain” exhibit the continuing narration of Aira’s improvisational mind. His characters — whether comic-strip ruffians, apes, subatomic particles or a version of his boyhood self — enter a shifting and tilting landscape of events that unhinge our temporal existence and render it phantasmagorical yet seemingly everyday in the unfolding. His matter-of-fact approach, accepting even the most outlandish episodes, suspends disbelief and encourages one’s own sense of displacement, of being released from the commonplace. Hail César!
— Patti Smith - The New York Times Book Review

Astonishing–turns Don Quixote into Picasso.
— Harper's

Everything in Aira has that Mad Scientist feel to it. 
— The Millions

Exhilarating. César Aira is the Duchamp of Latin American literature. Aira is one of the most provocative and idiosyncratic novelists working in spanish today and should not be missed.
— Natasha Wimmer - The New York Times

Wildly Funny.
— Paris Review

An Aesop in Breton's clothing. 
— Thomas Hachard - Los Angeles Review of Books

César Aira is Argentina's greatest living author.
— Marcela Valdes - The Nation

Cerebral, witty, fanciful and idiosyncratic.
— Aura Estrada - Boston Review

Aira oversteps the bounds of realism, forcing the world to live up to his imagination.
— Benjamin Lytal - The New York Sun

Aira delivers one surreal unraveling of reality after another that proceeds paradox by paradox into psychic realms
— Michael Upchurch - The Seattle Times

Surreal, witty, and funny. 
— The Guardian

Aira’s novels parody narrative form, destroy normal cause and effect, and contain bold conceptual dialogues.
— Michael Eaude - Times Literary Supplement

Aira stresses the sublime without falling back on the props of magical realism
— Cristopher Byrd - The Believer

The first collection of Aira's stories might be his masterpiece.
— Publishers Weekly, (starred review)

Aira is firmly in the tradition of Jorge Luis Borges and W. G. Sebald, those great late modernists for whom fiction was a theater of ideas.
— Mark Doty - Los Angeles Times

Aira seems fascinated by the idea of storytelling as invention, invention as improvisation, and improvisation as transgression, as getting away with something.
— The New York Review of Books

Aira conjures a languorous, surreal atmosphere of baking heat and quietly menacing shadows that puts one in mind of a painting by de Chirico.
— The New Yorker

César Aira's body of work is a perfect machine for invention.
— Maria Moreno - Bomb

This prolific Argentine writer has inspired a cult following.
— Scott Esposito - Tin House

Logic-defying brilliance.
— Publishers Weekly

Argentine author César Aira is an exquisite miniaturist who toys with avant-garde techniques. His work has drawn comparisons to Vladimir Nabokov and Italo Calvino for its gleeful literary gamesmanship and stories-within-stories.
— The Wall Street Journal

His novels are eccentric clones of reality, where the lights are brighter, the picture is sharper, and everything happens at the speed of thought.
— Jacob Mikanowski - The Millions

What a gift: to look forward to reading a new Aira novel from New Directions every year for the rest of one's life.
— Thomas McGonigle - Los Angeles Times

Irreverent inventiveness…without analogue in contemporary literature
— Megan Doll - San Francisco Chronicle

One of
the most celebrated authors in Latin America.
— New York Observer

A quixotic chemist.
— Michael H. Miller - The American Reader

The novelist who can't be stopped. Aira's novels are dense, unpredictable confections delivered in plain, stealthily lyrical style capable of accommodating his fondness for mixing metaphysics, realism, pulp fiction, and Dadaist incongruities.
— Michael Greenberg - The New York Review of Books

Outlandish B-movie fantasies are all part of the game. His best-known works are nonsensically hysterical. To love César Aira you must have a taste for the absurd, a tolerance for the obscurely philosophical, and a willingness to laugh out loud against your better judgment.
— Marcela Valdes - NPR Books

A distinctive hallucinatory style, which blends together reality and fiction, the waking world and the dream world
— Chloe Schama - The New Republic

César Aira is the energizer bunny of Latin American literature.
— Tess Lewis - The Hudson Review

Genius. César Aira is a deconstructed Kafka; a compact comprehensible Roberto Bolaño obsessed with the frightening nonsense of civilization.
— Joe Gallagher - Ploughshares

Uncanny imagination a la Calvino.
— Laura Pearson - Chicago Tribune

Unsettling and elegant parables.
— Los Angeles Times

César Aira is wild. The laws of gravity do not apply.
— James S. A. Correy - The Denver Post

Aira's works are like slim cabinets of wonder, full of unlikely juxtapositions. His unpredictability is masterful.
— Rivka Galchen - Harper's

César Aira's novels are the narrative equivalent of the Exquisite Corpse, that surrealist parlor game in which players add to drawings or stories without knowledge of previous or subsequent additions. Wildly heterogeneous elements are thrown together, and the final result never fails to surprise and amuse. Aira is wacky enough to play the game by himself, but the reader isn't left out either.
— The Millions

South America's answer to Haruki Murikami.
— Andrew Irvin - Miami Herald

A lampoon of our need for narrative. No one today does megafiction like Aira.
— Robyn Creswell - Paris Review

Product Details
ISBN: 9780811220293
ISBN-10: 081122029X
Publisher: New Directions
Publication Date: March 3rd, 2015
Pages: 240
Language: English