The Hare, by Cesar Aira

One reason that Aira is among my all-time favorite writers is the constant sense of adventure he provides. He has an uncanny way of keeping you in suspense in the unlikeliest scenarios. Quite often you can have no idea of where you are or where you are likely to go, because there are no known coordinates to the maps of his unusual creations. Even when the landscape is familar from other Aira stories, as the Argentine pampas in this book are reminiscent of that of ‘The Seamstress and the Wind’ and to a lesser extent ‘An Episode in the Life of a Landscape Painter‘, there are still other elements which add a distinctly different perspective on the terrain. Perhaps this is because I’ve only been able to read those of his books which have been translated into English (of which this was apparently the first). I wonder how much else would be familiar if I was able to read more.

The hero of ‘The Hare‘ is a complex character, an Englishman who is quite at home with the Indians of the plains. a naturalist in search of a legendary and rare creature which may or may not exist, in one form or another. One often gets the sense that Aira likes to begin a story with a few unrelated elements, and then keeps going and finds out for himself ,just as we do when we read it, what could possibly come of it all. Sometimes his books steer far away from their origin and never return. Others return to the initial scene with a vengeance (as with my favorite, still, How I Became a Nun). This one seems unique in that its ending is full of wonderful surprises, made even more fantastic by the roundabout, obscure and meandering trail that leads us there. It’s not a perfect story, and often feels a bit flat, until the stirring and quite emotional conclusion. Along the way I sometimes felt as lost as the wanderer in the tale, a mysterious figure who hovers on the horizon, barely in sight now and then, but this is part of that same sense of adventure. It reminded me of times I have arrived in a foreign country, knowing practically nothing about where I was or how to get along, and the exhiliration that some kinds of confusion can bring about.

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