An Episode in the Life of a Landscape Painter by César Aira
(New Directions Paperbook)

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An astounding novel from Argentina that is a meditation on the beautiful and the grotesque in nature, the art of landscape painting, and one experience in a man's life that became a lightning rod for inspiration.

An Episode in the Life of a Landscape Painter is the story of a moment in the life of the German artist Johan Moritz Rugendas (1802-1858). Greatly admired as a master landscape painter, he was advised by Alexander von Humboldt to travel West from Europe to record the spectacular landscapes of Chile, Argentina, and Mexico. Rugendas did in fact become one of the best of the nineteenth-century European painters to venture into Latin America. However this is not a biography of Rugendas. This work of fiction weaves an almost surreal history around the secret objective behind Rugendas' trips to America: to visit Argentina in order to achieve in art the "physiognomic totality" of von Humboldt's scientific vision of the whole. Rugendas is convinced that only in the mysterious vastness of the immense plains will he find true inspiration. A brief and dramatic visit to Mendosa gives him the chance to fulfill his dream. From there he travels straight out onto the pampas, praying for that impossible moment, which would come only at an immense pricean almost monstrously exorbitant price that would ultimately challenge his drawing and force him to create a new way of making art. A strange episode that he could not avoid absorbing savagely into his own body interrupts the trip and irreversibly and explosively marks him for life.

About César Aira

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César Aira was born in Coronel Pringles, Argentina, in 1949. Wildly popular in Latin America, he has published more than seventy books of short fictions and essays. Nick Caistor is a translator, editor, and author. He has written a biography of Octavio Paz and has translated the works of Jose´ Saramago, Paulo Coelho, and Julia´n Ri´os, among others.
Published May 25, 2006 by New Directions. 97 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction. Fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for An Episode in the Life of a Landscape Painter

Publishers Weekly

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Part travelogue, part meditation on art, this brief, increasingly riveting fictionalized history by Argentinean author Aira (How I Became a Nun) reinvents German painter Johann Moritz Rugendas's ill-fated 1837 South American journey.

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Historical Novel Society

Through deft description, the author and his translator convey the beauty of the land the characters are travelling across, and provide insight into what it must have been like to travel across what the Footprints guide calls “the most exciting continent on earth.” It also offers a glimpse into l...

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