The Musical Brain: And Other Stories (Hardcover)

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The Musical Brain: And Other Stories Cover Image
By César Aira, Chris Andrews (Translated by)
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Staff Reviews

A beautifully strange and packed short story collection. You get caught up with Aira in his preposterous logic problems and descriptions of artwork—such as a historical scene on a ship deck depicted in a folded cafe napkin, a dissolving Mona Lisa that becomes Debussyscented candles. Aira poses important questions, like: Would you rather have a Picasso or be a Picasso? For lovers of Borges, Cortazar, Calvino, Murakami.


— From The Musical Brain: And Other Stories


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

Nominated for a Neustadt award and the Man Booker International Prize, César Aira was born in Coronel Pringles, Argentina, in 1949. He has published at least one hundred books and recently created a limited edition, “Valise,” for the Museum of Modern Art, NYC.

The poet Chris Andrews teaches at the University of Western Sydney, Australia, where he is a member of the Writing and Society Research Centre. He has translated books by Roberto Bolano and César Aira for New Directions. He has won the Anthony Hecht Poetry Prize for his poetry and the Valle-Inclan Prize for his translations.

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

Astonishing–turns Don Quixote into Picasso.

Everything in Aira has that Mad Scientist feel to it. 

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

Wildly Funny.

An Aesop in Breton's clothing. 
— Thomas Hachard

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

Cerebral, witty, fanciful and idiosyncratic.
— Aura Estrada

Aira oversteps the bounds of realism, forcing the world to live up to his imagination.
— Benjamin Lytal

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

Surreal, witty, and funny. 

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

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

The first collection of Aira's stories might be his masterpiece.

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

Aira seems fascinated by the idea of storytelling as invention, invention as improvisation, and improvisation as transgression, as getting away with something.

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

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

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

Logic-defying brilliance.

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.

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

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

Irreverent inventiveness…without analogue in contemporary literature
— Megan Doll

One of
the most celebrated authors in Latin America.

A quixotic chemist.
— Michael H. Miller

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

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

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

César Aira is the energizer bunny of Latin American literature.
— Tess Lewis

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

Uncanny imagination a la Calvino.
— Laura Pearson

Unsettling and elegant parables.

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

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

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.

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

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

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