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Book Review by Ifedinma Dimbo

Last update - Saturday, October 1, 2011, 12:00 By Metro Éireann

The Los Angeles Times bracketed Cesar Aira with the likes of Jorge Luis Borges and WG Sebald as one of “those great modernists whom fiction was a theatre of ideas”. Not having read any of these authors before, I accepted this at face value. Then I read The Seamstress and the Wind, and I understood.

When you read a book where the characters become alive before your very eyes, where every minuscule nuance can be teased out, where the iridescent imagery entices you so much that you become fully immersed – that’s the mark of greatness.
The Seamstress and the Wind starts off one afternoon in the sedate town of Coronel Pringles, south of Buenos Aires, where we find the local seamstress busy making a wedding dress that the local art teacher has commissioned, even though there is no identified husband-to-be.
In the town the gossip is buzzing like the flies, and the villagers are busy going about their business and none-of-their-business, when out of the blue the seamstress is struck by the weirdest of fears – that her son has been kidnapped and taken to Patagonia accidentally. She immediately hires a taxi, packs herself in along with the wedding dress – so as to finish it while in transit – and heads off in hot pursuit of her son.
From here on in the novel becomes fantastical, absolutely out of this world, filled with adventurous scenarios where the imagination is let loose and of the kind that certainly are not meant to be grasped and explained away easily. But although I was lost for a while, I enjoyed the exhilarating chase.
I believe Cesar Aira is using this story to make the reader look again at the power of the spoken word – their arrangement or placement; what is said and what it conveys, from voice to meaning; the “traveling words and the words that alight and stay forever”. From the power of spoken words, Aira treats the reader further with the discourse of memory and forgetfulness.
Though confusing at times, this book – slim as it is – is a feast of language. And we should not fail to thank Rosalie Knecht for the wonderful translation that brings this lively tale to English readers.

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