The Famous Magician (Hardcover)

By César Aira, Chris Andrews (Translated by)

New Directions, 9780811228893, 48pp.

Publication Date: June 30, 2020

List Price: 14.95*
* Individual store prices may vary.


A writer is offered a devil’s bargain: will he give up reading books in exchange for total world domination?

A certain writer (“past sixty, enjoying ‘a certain renown’”) strolls through the old book market in a Buenos Aires park: “My Sunday walk through the market, repeated over so many years, was part of my general fantasizing about books.” It helps him “know what my as-yet unwritten books would be about.” Unfortunately, he is currently suffering writer’s block. Soon, however, that proves to be the least of our hero’s problems. There in the market, he tries and fails to avoid the insufferable boor Ovando—“a complete loser,” but a “man supremely full of himself”: “Conceit was never less justified.” And yet, is Ovando a master magician? Can he turn sugar cubes into pure gold? And can our protagonist decline the offer Ovando proposes: absolute power if the writer never in his life reads another book? And, is his publisher also a great magician? And the writer’s wife?

      Only César Aira could have cooked up this witch’s potion (and only he would plop phantom Mont Blanc pens into his cauldron, as well as jackals and fearsome crocodiles from the banks of the Nile)—a brew bubbling over with the question: where does literature end and magic begin?

About the Author

Nominated for a Neustadt award and the Man Booker International Prize, César Aira was born in Coronel Pringles, Argentina, in 1949. He has published at least one hundred books and recently created a limited edition, “Valise,” for the Museum of Modern Art, NYC.

The poet Chris Andrews teaches at the University of Western Sydney, Australia, where he is a member of the Writing and Society Research Centre. He has translated books by Roberto Bolano and César Aira for New Directions. He has won the Anthony Hecht Poetry Prize for his poetry and the Valle-Inclan Prize for his translations.

Praise For The Famous Magician

works are like slim cabinets of wonder, full of unlikely juxtapositions. His
unpredictability is masterful.
— Rivka Galchen

Aira’s cubist eye sees from
every angle.
— Patti Smith

César Aira is writing a gigantic, headlong, acrobatic fresco of modern life entirely made up of novelettes, novellas, novelitas. In other words, he is a great literary trickster, and also one of the most charming.

— Adam Thirlwell