A Different World

Cesar Aira is a prolific and gifted Argentinian writer. His stories and novels are dynamic, driven by innovation, and difficult to categorize. Light on structure, improvisational, they are also very engaging. Aira reportedly has a rigid and unique process for writing: one page a day with no revisions. However he does it, he does it well. Aira is an accomplished teller of tales.

Shantytown, a short novel or novella, is a good introduction to Aira. It features a shifting focus, a tangle of characters, and a parable like simplicity that tidies up questions. It takes the reader from beginning to end quickly, but through unexpected routes. What might be “normal” in a normal novel is not normal here.

The eponymous “Shantytown” is an off-grid slum in Buenos Aires with a separate culture, its own power supply, and it’s own rules. Characters from the city proper engage with, and in, Shantytown with mixed results. The feel is film noire with a parable-like mission throughout. The collective outcome, happily, is a short and intriguing book that transports the reader to a different world.

David Potash