The Hare, by César Aira

César Aira certainly seems to provide grist to the critic’s mill, if –

that is – you’re feeling after reading it that you want to take the novel apart. Apparently something of a Dadaist enfant terrible back in

Argentina, I read (after finishing The Hare) that he doesn’t bother much with editing his manuscripts or thinking them through properly

beforehand: he is one who is happy to go off when a tangent occurs to him and leave it at that. – Well, yes, I suppose: and so he does from the outset

here: we start within the mind of the Argentine strongman Rosas and I’m thinking we’re going to be treated to one of South America’s favourite

literary genres: the Novel of the Dictator; – but two chapters further in we’ve forgotten about Rosas altogether, and the novel turns out to be about

an English naturalist – except (and here we come to the first of the criticisms which we aren’t really putting forward because we aren’t much

concerned with these kinds of thing) he doesn’t really seem in the remotest bit interested in naturalism; and while he’s apparently come to the

pampas to track down the hare of the title, he never really seems very interested in achieving this end, or even to know anything about the hare (it

is nowhere remotely explained why the hare should be of interest to anyone, least of all that a naturalist should travel all the way from England

merely to observe it). One is certainly left with the impression that the plot hasn’t been entirely thought through, or characters’ actions

justified, which one can simply ignore if one is so inclined: for the truth of the matter seems to be that the character’s motivation is simply that

he came to the pampas so that he could fulfill the various functions Aira wishes of him (I really don’t think Aira could be arsed beyond this). Other

characters appear with similar spurious motivations, and the plot descends further and further into ludicrous absurdity, with many remarkable

coincidences piled up at the end in the great tradition of New Comedy.

On the whole, though, it was thoroughly enjoyable. I suppose, since

I’ve just read it, I’m inclined to compare it with Ignacio Padilla – both of them tended towards a glorious ridiculousness in their plotting; yet

the Padilla was tightly-plotted and its ludicrousness was in its complexity, whereas the Aira is a sprawling mess, and I can’t help coming away from

the books – perhaps just for the sake of this – with a much greater impression of the Padilla. While The Hare is well-written and has a lot

of good scenes, there is something essentially trivial about it, and in the end I don’t know how it helps that this is probably Aira’s

intention.

L-AM magic realism rating: 2/10 (certain episodes may have magic realist elements, but these will be contained within digressions on

mythology and indigenous Indian culture)

Here’s an interesting alternative opinion.

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