sábado, 31 de diciembre de 2011

Un episodio en la vida del pintor viajero

Un episodio en la vida del pintor viajero (Ediciones Era, 2001)
por César Aira
Argentina, 2000

Para gente como yo que se aburre fácilmente con la novela histórica, leer Un episodio en la vida del pintor viajero es casi como rendirse a un gran chiste surrealista.  Me gustó.  A caballo entre una biografía ficcionalizada y una novela histórica fingida, esta novela corta de 74 páginas admirablemente cuenta lo que pasa durante un día en los años 1830 cuando el pintor viajero Johan Moritz Rugendas (1802-1858, el artista de carne y hueso retratado en la portada arriba), de paso entre Mendoza y Buenos Aires en la Argentina de las luchas con las fuerzas indígenas, tiene la mala suerte de recibir un rayo en la cabeza.  La descripción del narrador es apropriadamente horrorosa.  "Como una estatua de níquel, hombre y bestia se encendieron de electricidad.  Rugendas se vio brillar, espectador de sí mismo por un instante de horror, que lamentablemente habría de repetirse" (31).  Según se verá, el segundo rayo le cae al pobre pintor menos de 15 segundos después del primero con "efectos más devastadores".  El hombre y el caballo "volaron unos veinte metros, encendidos y crepitando como una hoguera fría.  Seguramente por efecto de la descomposición atómica que estaban sufriendo cuerpos y elementos en la ocasión, la caída no fue fatal" (32).  A pesar de la tragedia física de Rugendas, que sobrevive el acidente pero con la cara destrozada y con heridas a los nervios faciales que se hace parecer a un monstruo y que se requiere la morfina, la provocación de Aira se revela cuando el narrador da a intender que la estética del pintor ha cambiado y quizá ha mejorado a causa del accidente.  ¿De dónde sale esta nueva inspiración artística?  ¿La electricidad, las drogas, o ambas cosas a la vez?  No se sabe por cierto, pero sea lo que sea el pintor viajero, en tiempos pasados el representante por excelencia de su género de realismo, ahora descubre que el mundo real es más y más irreal y llena de sorpresas como la escena en cuál un indio aparece con "un descomunal salmón" y indica a Rugendas que parece querer decir "me lo llevo para reproducción" (61).  ¿Un poco raro?  Sí, clarinete, pero deliciosamente incomformista al mismo tiempo.  (www.edicionesera.com.mx)

César Aira

9 comentarios:

  1. I'm so interested in Aira's work, read How I Became a Nunthis week and I 've been thinking about it often since. I've got this one on order so I had to read your thoughts, relying on Google's translation algorithm (tried Yahoo's first, man is that crappy!).

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  2. One writer I've marked for completion. Episode is often considered Aira's best work. But with dozens more out there, his best one was probably not translated yet.

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  3. Rise, I will bet you are right.

    This novel is in some ways the most conventional of the novels that have appeared in English so far (I have not read The Hare). And therefore the best to old sticks in the mud like me.

    And, as Richard says, it's not all that conventional!

    Some passages of this book are so sharp and exciting that they work in whatever conceptual framework the reader is using.

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  4. *Anthony: I need to go back and reread your Aira post, which I think I forgot to comment on, but I enjoyed this title quite a bit (though much less than the as yet untranslated into English Aira short story "Cecil Taylor"--of course, that story is virtually perfect!). Given Google's often comical machine translations, feel free to let me know if you'd like me to e-mail you a rough translation of what I was trying to say in this post.

    *Rise: Just based on the two short Aira pieces I've read to date, I'd say that "marked for completion" would be a worthwhile reading endeavor for this author. Can't imagine Landscape Painter being his best myself--esp. after having read "Cecil Taylor"--but I love Aira's often electric prose and the sucker punch surprises he seems to enjoy springing on the reader. You have to be wary when reading him!

    *Tom: I need to catch up with you and Rise in the Aira reading department, so I can take part in these debates more vigorously! Until then, I'll just say that I enjoyed this novella's stealth "conventionality" quite a bit and loved the language as already mentioned. Your last sentence here is right on the $$$ in that regard.

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  5. How could I forget about "Cecil Taylor"! Now that is some good stuff, yes yes yes.

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  6. Thanks, Richard, I would appreciate a rough translation if you have the time.

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  7. Richard, kindly send me a translation too. Thanks.

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  8. google translate to the rescue!

    i always loved that your blog is bi-lingual (but i'd never mentioned it and wanted to make a point to).

    i've recently added César Aira's An Episode in the Life of a Landscape Painter and Varamo to my "to read" list and i couldn't be more excited to read him. i'll admit, he first caught my attention because bolano wrote the preface. i trust bolano with book recommendations!

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  9. *Tom: I wouldn't be surprised if "Cecil Taylor" stayed my favorite Aira for a long time. However, I'm going to put that "good stuff" to the test 2-3 times this year, I hope. Cheers!

    *Anthony and Rise: Sorry again about the delay, but I just e-mailed you the promised English rendering of this post--and in the same time period, Aira has probably written 2-3 more novellas of his own...

    *Selena: Apologies to you and to everybody else for the delay in responding. However, I'm glad to hear that you're intending to read Landscape Painter at some point; it's an arresting read, to be sure, and I agree that Bolaño is a great guy to count on for author/novel recommendations. Thanks, too, for the encouragement about appreciating the bilingual elements of the blog--I just wish my Spanish were better so all the posts could be dual language without the headaches they usually cause me. Cheers!

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