The Seamstress in the Wind

César Aira 1991
Translated by Rosalie Knecht 2011

I have a feeling that César Aira is fast becoming an author I’ll be following for quite some time. He is a thoughtful artist, willing to playfully experiment with the written word and let his story float in whimsical directions in order to explore universal themes presented in strange settings. Of the two novels I’ve read thus far, The Literary Conference and now The Seamstress in the Wind, both follow a similar pattern with a first person narrator that speaks to the reader conversationally and with awareness that the text is a piece of fiction. In Seamstress, Aira is pointedly blunt and honest in regard to this conceit as noted from his opening “I’ve been looking for a plot for the novel I want to write: a novel of successive adventures, full of anomalies and inventions. Until now I’ve had nothing except the title, which I’ve had for years and cling to with blank obstinacy: “The Seamstress and the Wind.”” (3).

Aira takes that title in strange directions, telling the story of a small town seamstress who fanatically leaves town in search of her missing son (the author’s childhood friend) and eventually through a series of tragic and comical events ends up in the Patagonia desert being seduced by the incarnation of the wind. Throughout the narrative the author successively appears to discuss the narrative progression, the relation between his characters and the bizarre circumstances that follow. The result of this is a fantastically fun read that is deeply meaningful while at the same time humorously farcical. The surreal events that occur are blanketed with introspective digressions such as the following exploration of memory and forgetting:

“Forgetting is like the great alchemy free of secrets, limpid, transforming everything into the present. In the end it makes our lives into this visible and tangible thing we hold in our hands with no folds left hidden in the past.” (127)

At only 132 pages, the Seamstress in the Wind is over as soon as it begins, but the brevity benefits the experience. If this novel were any longer it would seem aristocratic and artsy, but as it is it works with its whimsical nature. It is a morsel of enjoyment that I’ll return to and is enough of a taste to encourage my thirst for more of Aira in the years to come.


About hardlyregistered

The meandering observations of a 30 something guy.
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