How I Became a Nun by César Aira

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A sinisterly funny modern-day Through the Looking Glass that begins with cyanide poisoning and ends in strawberry ice cream.

"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.

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 February 28, 2007 by New Directions. 128 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction. Fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for How I Became a Nun

The New York Times

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César Aira is a 6-year-old Argentine girl whose first taste of strawberry ice cream is tainted with cyanide.

May 13 2007 | Read Full Review of How I Became a Nun

Publishers Weekly

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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 autobi...

Dec 18 2006 | Read Full Review of How I Became a Nun

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