Why I want to read César Aira:

The Literary Conference, written a year later, in 1996, presents us with a writer, César, who double-jobs as a scientist hell-bent on world domination. In the prologue, César gains sudden wealth and glory by solving the centuries-old enigma of the Macuro Line – a vast, triangular rope structure emerging from the sea off the Venezuelan coast, erected by inscrutable pirates. Realising that the Line is a massive slingshot, César catapults a treasure chest out of the sea and into his possession. The next day, his name emblazoning headlines the world over, César flies to a literary conference in the Andean city of Mérida at which he has been invited to speak, though he spends most of the conference idling by the hotel pool, observing his beautiful fellow-guests, indifferent to the event itself. His real reason for being there, we learn, is none other than to clone the great Mexican author, Carlos Fuentes – this, he has reasoned, is the surest way to achieve his tyrannical ambitions. He sends a laboratory-engineered wasp to retrieve a sample of Fuentes’ DNA, then grows sentimental and holds a funeral for the wasp upon its expiration. After setting up his ‘cloning machine’ on a mountaintop overlooking the city, César awaits the descent of his genius-army, meanwhile pondering affairs of the heart and his lost youth, and recalling the beautiful literature student he once had an affair with in the same city. In the denouement, César finds that it is not an army of Fuentes clones that comes pouring down the mountainside, but a throng of enormous, blue silkworms, each ‘approximately one thousand feet long and seventy feet in diameter.’ Momentarily distracted by the reappearance of his old flame, César must get his act together and prevent the worms from crushing the city.



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Laurence Thompson

Laurence Thompson is an English writer. He is almost certainly drunk.

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