by Hernán Firpo
In honor of the continuation of Spanish and Portuguese Lit Months 2018, which will run through the end of August like it or not, here's a book geek air-kiss for y'all in the form of the first of two pieces on the Buenos Aires book collecting world I hope to bring to your attention before long/before the end of the year/eventually/none of the above. First up: Hernán Firpo's "El librero que no vende libros malos" ["The Bookseller Who Doesn't Sell Bad Books"], a newspaper article from Clarín dated July 16, 2017 profiling Federico Turrín Sabot, a "dandy que jamás negocia sus cuidadosas tres horas diarias de lectura" ["dandy who never negotiates his precious three hours a day of reading time"], and the La Lengua Absuelta "librería boutique" ["boutique bookshop"] Turrín Sabot runs in the upscale barrio of Belgrano. Talk eventually turns to César Aira because the shop, with a commercial strategy focusing on contemporary Argentinean authors "opacados por" ["overshadowed by"] the big name likes of Borges, Bioy and Cortázar, specializes in the out of print books and first editions of people like Fogwill, Pizarnik, Aira, etc.--"y no tantos etcéteras" ["and not that many other etceteras"] as the cheeky Firpo puts it. Among other goodies, La Lengua Absuelta supposedly has everything ever published by Aira, numbered limited edition Osvaldo Lamborghini rarities, shit like that. Turrín Sabot, alone among Buenos Aires book dealers according to Firpo, is also the only guy in town who could score you a copy of Aira's super rare 1975 debut novel Moreira.* Not that he seems all that interested in selling it. "How much would it cost?" Firpo asks. "Ufff...30 lucas. Moreira puede salir lo que sale porque no se lo vendo a nadie" ["Ufff...30,000 Argentinean pesos.** Moreira can go for what it does because I won't sell it to just anybody"] the bookman replies. "Did you ever sell even one of them?" the reporter asks. "De seis que tenía, vendí tres, pero es como esperar el novio para la novia..." ["Of six that I had, I sold three, but it's like waiting on the right husband to turn up for the bride..."]. On the other hand, "encontrará El Aleph de Borges en una Primera Edición: 10 mil pesos... Sucede que nuestra literatura tiene libros difíles de conseguir y el valor se desprende de esa dificultad. Austria y Hungría (de Néstor Perlongher), Invitación a la masacre (de Marcelo Fox). Y Moreira está en esa categoría" ["you'll find a first edition of Borges' El Aleph: 10,000 Argentinean pesos...*** It's just a matter of our literature having books that are hard to get a hold of, and the price skyrockets as a result of that difficulty. (Néstor Perlongher's] Austria and Hungría, (Marcelo Fox's) Invitación a la masacre. And Moreira also fits into that category"]. Firpo notes that La Lengua Absuelta's web page listed 111 Aira titles at the time of his article, a fact that left the bookseller who doesn't sell bad books both proud and a little testy: "Todos tengo" ["I have them all"] he replied. "El Aira autor, el nouvellista, el traductor, el ensayista. ¿Sabías que Aira hizo la traducción de tres libros de Stephen King?... Pero no quiero que te quedes con la falsa idea de que esta es la librería de Aira. Esto es mucho más. Mirá bien--miramos bien--: ¿no es la biblioteca que te gustaría tener en tu casa?" ["Aira as author, Aira as short story writer, Aira as translator, Aira as essayist. Did you know that Aira did the translation for three Stephen King books? But I don't want you to leave with the wrong impression that this is the Aira bookstore. This is much more. Look closely--let's both look closely: isn't this the library that you'd like to have in your house?"].
*For more on Moreira and the Buenos Aires book world it was conceived in, perhaps my favorite Aira novella to date--the 2007 La Vida Nueva--offers many fond reminiscences that you can read about here.
**About $1,100 U.S. at the current exchange rate
***About $365 U.S.