How I Became a Nun

Current Stock: 1
UPC: 9780811216319
Author: Cesar Aira
  • Paperback: 128 pages
  • Publisher: New Directions (February 28, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0811216314
  • ISBN-13: 978-0811216319
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.4 x 7 inches

A six-year-old child sickened by eating cyanide-contaminated ice cream makes for agonies and picaresque adventures from Argentine author Aira (Adventures in the Life of a Landscape Painter), who draws on a wave of real food-supply poisonings in Latin America during the 1950s for this slim autobiographical novel. Newly moved from a Buenos Aires suburb to a rough-and-tumble neighborhood in the southern city of Rosario, the young César is taken for a first ice cream by his father. Despite its rancid taste, the father forces César to eat it, and then, in an escalating standoff, beats the vendor to death. Subsequent chapters in this elliptical, disjointed work trace César's hallucinatory stint in the hospital (where a rich fantasy life takes hold for good) while the father languishes in prison, and César's painful, delayed transition into first grade. Eventually, César makes friends with a rich boy, Arturito, and a game of dressup goes spectacularly awry, but the die is cast: César, who often cannot distinguish between dream and reality, will be a writer. Completed in 1989, Aira's near-memoir is a foreboding fable of life and art. (Feb.) 
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“Completed in 1989, Aira's near-memoir is a foreboding fable of life and art.”
Publishers Weekly

“An utter faith in his fabulous tales is all this author can offer…such marvelous fantasies.”
Douglas Messerli, Otis College of Art & Design

About the Author

"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.