Birthday by César Aira

César Aira's unconventional memoir is filled with timeless reflections on the struggle of learning to live well

Book Review by Emily Corpuz | 28 Feb 2019
  • Birthday by Cesar Aira
Book title: Birthday
Author: Birthday by César Aira, translated by Chris Andrews

César Aira holds no punches in his stark introspection. Birthday stems from a seemingly innocuous thought about the phases of the moon that occurs to Aira just after his fiftieth birthday. From this point, the book reads as an unconventional memoir as the seasoned author, whose work is incalculably influential in Latin America, reflects on events and mindsets that have resulted in his “incapacity to live”.

Aira explores how his mind becomes fixed fast in time while the rest of the world, and the rest of his own life, goes on without him. In answer to this singular experience of becoming unpredictably stuck and unstuck in time, he negotiates the leaps and gaps of his life that he both laments and holds dear. Leaping from one topic to another, especially between chapters, gives readers a sense of the mental and temporal leaps Aira experiences throughout his life.

Though originally written in 1999 when the author turned fifty, Birthday contains timeless reflections on the struggle of learning how to live well. If you are a writer or are interested in writing, this is an invaluable source of hard-won wisdom from someone who knows first-hand the trials and elation of storytelling; if you are not, Birthday remains a must for fresh insight into navigating this curious life.

And Other Stories, 28 Feb, £8.99