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How I Became a Nun by César Aira
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How I Became a Nun (1993)

by César Aira

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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English (18)  Spanish (1)  All languages (19)
Showing 1-5 of 18 (next | show all)
Hiermee heb ik nu alle (3) in het Nederlands vertaalde werken van Aira gelezen. In het Engels is er nog goed een dozijn en enkele online kortverhalen, maar daarmee houdt mijn kans op, om de 100 andere romans en novellen te lezen zonder mijn éénjarige en gefaalde college Spaans op één of andere manier alsnog te herstellen en me deze taal aan te leren.

Er is ook één ondertitelde video waarin Deens auteur Peter Adolphsen Aira interviewt op het Louisiana Literature festival in 2012. Deze vier bronnen maken Aira evenwel nu al één van mijn favoriete auteurs.

Hoe ik een non werd lijkt het meest "Dadaïstische sprookje" van de drie Nederlandstalige publicaties. Het is onduidelijk wie de kleine César Aira in dit boek is, of het nu een jongen of een meisje is, en of er ook maar iets in dit verhaal als narratief bedoeld is. Aira houdt niet van dikke boeken, niet van psychologische romans, narratieve vertellingen of protagonisten, en hij ziet zijn werk eerder als poëzie dan als proza. Aan al die voorwaarden is hier voldaan.

Dat maakt dit verhaal geen beste kennismaking; in tegenstelling misschien tot De schimmen. Meer is het een droomnovelle van gedachten, nachtmerries, fantasie en waan, over de verbeelding en de realiteit. Dat er af en toe iets gebeurt, of dat er enkele personages in vermeld worden, lijkt ondergeschikt.

Dat is voor de liefhebber heerlijk om lezen maar ook verwarrend. Het boek heeft een begin en een einde die ogenschijnlijk narratief bedoeld zijn, en het is vooral het slot wat me iets te direct en 'realistisch' over komt. Maar misschien zijn ook dat maar metaforen en is het vooral toch de 'echte' César Aira die hier zijn ding doet en ons toont wat een roman is: taal en idee en niets anders dan dat. ( )
  nilsgeylen | Jul 29, 2018 |
A boy no a girl no a boy child.
Written as if the grown up self is remembering the events of his life at age 6, and trying not to filter it through the lens of reality.
A child's reality is different. Dreams may be real. Reality may seem dream-like. Dreams and reality may be the same. The experience is the reality, whether it is felt in conventional consciousness or altered states.
Memories are distorted, incomplete and fleeting. They are warped by dreams, and dreams are warped by memories.
All culminating in a Grimm-like ending.

( )
  TheBookJunky | Apr 22, 2016 |
Great beginning, pretty good ending, much of the middle felt like muddle, but it was short enough that it wasn't a fatal detraction.

The narrator is a young boy or a young girl--the book keeps shifting as to which it is, with no logic that I could discern--who is born in the provinces around Buenos Aires in the 1930s. The book begins with his/her first taste of ice cream, which is tainted with food poisoning. A poignant scene of the father not understanding why he/she does not like the ice cream is followed by his losing his temper and murdering the ice cream seller. The next scene is the boy/girl recovering in the hospital and the father away in jail. It continues through the first years of school, narrated in a strange stream-of-consciousness way, and ends, as the back cover of the book nicely puts it, "in strawberry ice cream."

Based on this and Varamo, the other Cesar Aria book I read, he's a fascinating writer with a lot of upside, but not sure if I'm confident enough of anything else to take the (shallow) plunge again. ( )
  nosajeel | Jun 21, 2014 |
I came across an article somewhere that hotly recommended Aira's work — the most exciting Argentine novelist of our time, or words to that effect — so I thought I'd give him a try. Discovering that his novels are short — this one's barely more than a novella — encouraged my experimental zeal.

Despite the title, our narrator may be a boy rather than a girl: sometimes the text says one, sometimes the other. This is either annoying or amusing in a whimsical sort of a way, depending on the reader's mood/temperament; personally I rather enjoyed the uncertainty, as a sort of nose-thumbing at a very basic narrative convention. There's a far bigger nose-thumbing at narrative conventions later, but to find out what it is you'll have to either read the book or bribe me.

Whatever, the book starts with our hero(ine) being fed tainted ice cream by a negligent vendor; our hero(ine)'s father, irate, promptly smothers the vendor in his own poisoned confection. To say that the rest of the book is the tale of what happens to the child over the next few months/years as Dad's in prison would be technically accurate, but really the novel's overarching story isn't all that important — to the point that it's quite often lost sight of. Instead the main focus is on a succession of lesser stories, anecdote-style accounts of
some of the quirky events in the narrator's young life. And it's in these that Aira shows his real narrative power: I was both rapt and grinning a lot.

Overall, though, this is a fairly slight work. I enjoyed it, but I can't imagine I'll be making any concerted effort to hunt down other Aira novels . . . although if I see one on a shelf somewhere I might well pick it up. ( )
  JohnGrant1 | Aug 11, 2013 |
4 vote bostonbibliophile | Nov 8, 2012 |
Showing 1-5 of 18 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (3 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
César Airaprimary authorall editionscalculated
Laabs, KlausTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0811216314, Paperback)

A sinisterly funny modern-day Through the Looking Glass that begins with cyanide poisoning and ends in strawberry ice cream.

"My story, the story of 'how I became a nun,' began very early in my life; I had just turned six. The beginning is marked by a vivid memory, which I can reconstruct down to the last detail. Before, there is nothing, and after, everything is an extension of the same vivid memory, continuous and unbroken, including the intervals of sleep, up to the point where I took the veil ." So starts Cesar Aira's astounding "autobiographical" novel. Intense and perfect, this invented narrative of childhood experience bristles with dramatic humor at each stage of growing up: a first ice cream, school, reading, games, friendship. The novel begins in Aira's hometown, Coronel Pringles. As self-awareness grows, the story rushes forward in a torrent of anecdotes which transform a world of uneventful happiness into something else: the anecdote becomes adventure, and adventure, fable, and then legend. Between memory and oblivion, reality and fiction, Cesar Aira's How I Became a Nun retains childhood's main treasures: the reality of fable and the delirium of invention.

A few days after his fiftieth birthday, Aira noticed the thin rim of the moon, visible despite the rising sun. When his wife explained the phenomenon to him he was shocked that for fifty years he had known nothing about "something so obvious, so visible." This epiphany led him to write How I Became a Nun. With a subtle and melancholic sense of humor he reflects on his failures, on the meaning of life and the importance of literature.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:22:42 -0400)

Narrative of childhood experience bristles with dramatic humor at each stage of growing up: a first ice cream, school, reading, games, friendship. The novel begins in Aira's hometown, Coronel Pringles. As self-awareness grows, the story rushes forward in a torrent of anecdotes which transform a world of uneventful happiness into something else: the anecdote becomes adventure, and adventure, fable, and then legend.… (more)

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