Ema la cautiva PDF È Ema la PDF \ Paperback

Ema la cautiva PDF È Ema la PDF \ Paperback


  • Paperback
  • 231 pages
  • Ema la cautiva
  • César Aira
  • English
  • 21 January 2014
  • 9780811219105

10 thoughts on “Ema la cautiva

  1. Jenny (Reading Envy) Jenny (Reading Envy) says:

    I finished this book a week ago and have discussed it and mulled over it and I guess I should just go ahead and write a review The discussion and deep thinking have had a lot to do with uestions of the author's intent It is difficult to find many reviews in English of the work in fact all of them are written by men who say nothing about the brutal sexual violence of the situations Ema finds herself in One even went as far as saying that Aira is describing an idealized world that he wished he could return to I suspect he is referring to the nature writing but the complete omission of any discussion of the captivity element is troubling in every single professional review I readEma as far as we see her in the novel moves from the captivity of prison to the captivity of kept sexual partnerhousewife to the captivity of being taken by an indigenous group to the captivity of being traded as property between chiefs At some point she seems to be semi autonomous and returns to one of her previous residences view spoilerShe raises pheasants in captivity and I got the sense that the author felt that by Ema taking another creature into captivity she had regained control of her life and proved some kind of point hide spoiler


  2. lark benobi lark benobi says:

    I was disturbed by this novel Sometimes that can be a good thing I'm not sure whether it is in this case thoughEma felt to me throughout as I read as a horrific embodiment of a male fantasy Ema is an ever youthful ever desirable female who is subject to terrible violence along with her children being subject to it without her having much of a problem with it She just passively makes the best of things Because she is so passive about being carried off with regularity to be raped some then she doesn't really come across as a survivor who has agency and her ultimate successes feel very pasted on not believable The interstitial cuts to a male point of view throughout this novel all objectify Ema and focus on her sexual desirability in ways where I'm simply not sure what to make of them because the men raping her seem kind of reasonable and caring The messages I'm getting from the text are garbled because I'm not confident that Aira is in command of the subtext that this woman is a victim of serial torture His writing dovetails too neatly with misogyny and male fantasy for me to trust that he knows what he's doingSo one way to deal with this objectionable ness is to separate my feeling about the book from any notion of author intent If I do that as an exercise in alternative interpretation the novel becomes a deliberate farce I guess in a Candide like way of a character who decides she is in the best of all possible worlds Or maybe the novel can be read as an indictment of men treating women like animals or as a tribute to women's strength to overcome horrible abuse If I try to shoehorn any of these interpretations into my own reaction to the novel though I'm still unable to resolve how such a completely passive character could ever survive and prosper The novel reminded me of the DH Lawrence short story The Woman Who Road Away a story of a woman who is as passive as Ema is about her fate in a South American setting but whose ultimate fate is a lot believable frankly than Ema's


  3. Lobstergirl Lobstergirl says:

    Ema a delicate woman of indeterminate origins as the back cover explains she is considered white although she is the same color as the Indian women with either African or Indian features is taken captive from somewhere and journeys across some part of wild Argentina in a wagon convoy with soldiers and other prisoners The trip is ghastly the prisoners barely fed seeming barely human the food noxious When one male prisoner is seen copulating with a being of indefinite sex an officer cuts off his genitals and leaves the man hanging over the side of the wagon by the chain attached to his leg He passes out and bleeds to death his body left there for three days as the stench circulatesEma who has an infant son with her copulates with another officer When they arrive at the fort which is their destination she is given a husband and also becomes a concubine and also has dates in the woods with an Indian She will have three children rapidly over the course of the narrative One night Indians attack the fort and its environs and Ema's husband disappears She is taken to another area where again she serves as a concubine In and out of harems is Ema Does any of this bother her? It's hard to say Aira doesn't say and Ema's emotions aren't visible except for a reuest she makes to be reunited with her lost son at that point just a toddler which is grantedAbout 80% of the way through the novel she decides to return to the fort her current husband gives permission and proposes her start up to the commander a pheasant breeding farm He gives her a loan and twenty thousand hectares and she begins the breeding the descriptions of which are not pleasant semen extraction and fertilization and make even official visitors nauseatedMaybe the most interesting aspect of the novel was the large number of animal species both normal and extremely odd that pop up I didn't make a list of them but now I'm wishing I had as it would have distracted from the narrative's tediumThe novel is befuddling In their nonsensical way the blurbs tend to agree His novels are eccentric clones of reality where the lights are brighter the picture is sharper and everything happens at the speed of thought opines The Millions You don't know where you are or what you are looking at but the air is full of electricity Someone in Artforum hazards Aira's literature is but a parody of inventiveness and at its core is an amazing degree of penetrating and unrelenting critical reflexivity which is most likely what I would have come up with too if I'd had a set of Magnetic PoetryAira's Author's Note both clarifies and muddles as when he calls the novel a historiola I don't know what that is but it seems precisely correct He explains that he once worked as a translator of gothic novels odysseys in which the female protagonists sometimes English sometimes Californian transported the same old entanglements over hymenoptical oceans oceans of passionate tea He continues Naturally I enjoyed those books but over time I came to feel that there were too many passions canceling each out like air freshener He then decided to write a simplified gothic novel which this is it turned out that Ema my miniature self had created a new passion for me the passion for which all others can be exchanged as money is exchanged for all things indifference This oddest of statements turns out to explain much


  4. Ellie Ellie says:

    I looked forward to reading this work having very much enjoyed Argentinian writer Cesar Aira's work How I Became a Nun Ema the Captive is a much earlier work and I was curious to compare the twoEma the Captive is a very different type of book than How I Became a Nun It takes place in 19th Century Argentina out in the forests plains and mountains The atmosphere is extremely dreamlike and the writing beautifully lyrical although punctuated by episodes of shocking brutality It begins with a march of Spanish soldiers with a glimpse of a captive woman who later turns out to be Ema Although she is dark skinned Ema is for some reason regarded as white and therefore exotic amongst the other captives who are indigenous people The rest of the book recounts Ema's life with the indigenous populationWith many books I have the feeling half way through that I have basically read the book and there are no surprises other than with thrillers and mysteries where there is a punchline of sorts but the writing is still generally predictable With Ema I truly had no idea where the story was leading and what might happen Apparently Aira has said that he often writes without knowing where he is headed I enjoyed the almost vertiginous feeling of endless possibilities The writing is gorgeous with a dreamlike uality in the depiction of the life of the indigenous people and their surroundingsEma herself remains somewhat mysterious and undefined If I had any criticism of the book it would be how opaue her character is But that at the same time gave me great pleasureI look forward to reading of this writer's work He is an important Argentinian voice not so well known in this country who deserves to be read by many people Thanks to NetGalley the publisher New Directions and the author for the opportunity to read this lovely book in exchange for an honest review


  5. Elaine Elaine says:

    This is the first book I've read by Mr Aira and all I can say is this book is akin to the Monkey Festival InconclusiveEma the Captive was an inconclusive read filled with pseudo philosophical ramblings from men no less about money and existence interspersed with plenty of scenes of smoking gambling and lazing away your days Oh and pheasant farming Am I supposed to care about any of that?The short read was less about Ema than about the strange distant world she found herself living in She was mysterious only because Mr Aira portrayed her in that way She is distant aloof and in a way open to whatever life has meted out to her Life is always harsh and brutal for the fairer sex most especially during a time of civil unrest and the political climate is shaky and uncertain It is no less hedonistic during Ema's captivity and the strange lives she lives in this novel of 230 pages but it was less about her survival her fortitude and determination and about the boring typical one dimensional men she is married off to or meets on her journeys and their long winded abstract monologues about associating money with life and money with proving one's existence or something like that I really can't remember because I skipped the incoherent sermonic partsIn the end it all just sounded pretentious and boringOr maybe I'm just not smart enough to get it


  6. jeremy jeremy says:

    life he said is a primitive phenomenon destined to vanish entirely but extinction is not and will not be sudden if it were we would not be here destiny is what gives the incomplete and the open their aesthetic force then it retires to the sky destiny is a grand retiree it has nothing to do with the human body's anxious perceiving which is kinesthetic than visual or in any case imaginary than real destiny is concerned only with the flower but the flower has no weight; we want the melon the melon flower is like a little yellow brown orchid the vines of the melon spread over the ground chaotically in a way that is not life like at all we're interested in things that have solidity and give things that take up space not conversations the thirteenth of césar aira's works to be translated into english ema the captive ema la cautiva is the prolific argentine writer's second book completed in 1978 and first published in 1981 set in late 19th century argentina aira's early novel is the tale of its titular character's travails through slavery motherhood and pheasant farming though lacking much of the unconventionality and extraordinary narrative shifts that indelibly mark aira's later works ema the captive offers glimpses of his incipient style with his burgeoning talents already well apparent a boldness and strength of spirit imbues both the story as a whole and ema herself while the strangeness that alights upon the pages of his most recent works doesn't pervade in this story ema the captive is nonetheless yet one remarkable foray into the singular imagination of one of the spanish speaking world's finest authorstranslated from the spanish by chris andrews aira bolaño


  7. Jim Jim says:

    César Aira's Ema the Captive is one of the odd Argentinian's finest works We begin with a caravan of prisoners in wagons drawn by oxen headed to the settlement of Coronel Pringles several hundred miles southeast of Buenos Aires We see the strangeness that is Argentina indeed much stranger than it is in reality today from the point of view of a French engineer We see miniature dogs that weigh just a few ounces each There are massive snowstorms I don't think it ever snows in that part of Argentina We see a large herd of miniature seals that totally ignore the prisoners and their escortThe viewpoint shifts from the Frenchman to one of the female prisoners Ema who is granted to him as a concubine She then shacks up with a gaucho before a raid makes her a prisoner of various Indians This is before the massacre of Indians by the Argentinians euphemistically referred to as The Conuest of the Desert Finally she returns to Pringles and takes up a project of breeding pheasants The novels ends abruptly when she and her Indian workers visit a series of caves near Bahia BlancaBut then that is typical for Aira the man who never explains and never backtracks We never learn why Ema goes from one man to another She just does There is a great deal of incongruous humor The Indians are known largely for printing their own paper currency in any desired amount Strange as he may seem at times I do believe Aira is the best of the living Argentinian authors the inheritor of a literary tradition that goes back to Jorge Luis Borges Adolfo Bioy Casares Antonio di Benedetti and Juan Jose Saer


  8. Carla Carla says:

    Don't know how I feel about this book Ema moves around from different camps and appears to be a captive raped and yet the author wants us to believe she's okay with this and that she's an independent woman who can move to other camps? men? when the mood suits her? I found it very confusing and demoralizing I've never read anything written by this writer If this is how he portrays women how he normalizes them then I don't know I'd read I did enjoy the descriptions of the flora fauna and sea


  9. Matt Brown Matt Brown says:

    my favorite from aira that i've come across thus far ostensibly it's a straightforward western novel but over time his charateristic plot twists and philosophical wanderings are revealed it's told with a meloncholic and almost magical beauty that often left me feeling somewhat disoriented


  10. John Pistelli John Pistelli says:

    Reading and rereading Wilde over the years I note a fact that his panegyrists seem not even to have suspected the elementary and demonstrable fact that Wilde is nearly always right—Jorge Luis Borges On Oscar Wilde trans Esther Allen Art never expresses anything but itself It has an independent life just as Thought has and develops purely on its own lines It is not necessarily realistic in an age of realism nor spiritual in an age of faith So far from being the creation of its time it is usually in direct opposition to it and the only history that it preserves for us is the history of its own progress—Oscar Wilde The Decay of LyingI went to see Ridley Scott's Alien Covenant this weekend; I was surprised to discover that its villain aside from various iterations of H R Giger's monstrous xenophallus was Oscar Wilde or rather David self named for Michelangelo's sculpture an android become an omni cultured aesthete cultivator of monstrous lifeforms for their own sakes explicitly ueer seducer Condemning nature and himself artificial spawning new life not through insemination but through the ideological organization of organic matter including the forced insemination of others and the gender disordering conversion of men into mothers ie incubators for the aliens of the title the film's antagonist is a flagrant allusion to the Wilde archetype the Platonic idealist as dandiacal aesthete sexual antinomian threat to public order and eventually martyr To emphasize the stakes of the conflict David's victims are a crew of married couples on a mission to colonize a new planet in a bathetic attempt to offset the film's homophobic deep structure we are provided among the crew a gay married couple The film's emotional core is a scene wherein David attempts to seduce the crew's own android Walter Both played by Michael Fassbender the scene notable for the double entendres that had the frat bros in the audience cackling I'll do all the fingering David says as he teaches Walter to play a pipe evokes the Narcissus topos of gay male desire The seduction alas fails as we might have predicted from the two androids' verbal mannerism Fassbender plays David in homage to Anthony Hopkins's Hannibal Lecter all insinuatingly nasal cultivation while he plays Walter with the exaggerated accent British actors always use when their characters are supposed to be salt of the earth middle Americans The film seemingly pits family values against its ueer Satan who is monstrous than the monsters he manipulates and Scott and co cynically deploy homophobia and heterosexual titillation to keep those frat bro ticket buyers entertained; but I ultimately hesitate at the judgement that the film is homophobic Who could demiurgic David represent if not the film's maker? Who does an artist watching the film have to identify with besides its maestro of mayhem whether director Scott or Scott's surrogate droid? Family values the good in good vs evil are colors on the palette or tastes on the palate but the artist—whether Oscar Wilde or Ridley Scott David or myself—are in this for the excitement beyond good and evil The laborer in the factory of popular culture cannot publicly advertise amoral aestheticism however or not for long anyway There is too much money at risk too many constituencies to please so values must be affirmed Hence Alien Covenant's plucky widow its explicit protagonist en route to fertilize the cosmos Even a pop artist who does endorse aestheticism must eventually come back to hearth and home witness the current public spirited sorrow of poor Lana del Rey once our nightingale of sexual nihilism now so distressed over tensionsrising over country lines that she must ask like a PTA or PSA mom What about all of these children?In high culture—or as Pierre Bourdieu calls it the field of restricted production—you are allowed say Well what about them? And who cares anyway? Which vicious aloofness has this to recommend it if you can recall being a child you might remember that this was what you always wanted to say in the face of the adult world's furrowed brow Hence Wilde's theoretical essays and dialogues which are forthright in their dismissal of extra artistic interest from art; hence Borges's euanimity in contemplating the replacement of reality by fictions the process he narrates again and again which politico moral critics try to recoup as a critiue of totalitarianism like trying to convince yourself that pornography is a moral warning against fornication or as we now call it objectification By a commodious vicus of recirculation I return from Ridley Scott's interstellar jaunt to Argentina—not to Borges but to his distinguished successor in his country's avant garde César Aira who candidly tells an interviewer maybe all my work is a footnote to Borges maybe? I justify the above digression—can you begin an essay with a digression?—with the statement that Aira's second novel Ema the Captive now translated into English for the first time tells the same story as Alien Covenant right down to the breeding motif called by a character sodomy incarnate—ie ueer reproduction Though Aira wrote this book according to its subscription the year before the first Alien film's release this coincidence is not exactly an accident as both the avant garde novel and the pop culture film franchise are playing variations on the same coupling of narrative genres the imperial romance with the gothic romance Both narratives show colonizing missions derailed by inhuman assault The difference is that Aira's audience is a minuscule fraction of Scott's so he is allowed his indifference to public life—allowed that is to openly side with the inhuman Aira is an avant garde writer whose rejection of traditional novelistic realism and psychology takes the form of a sort of surrealist automatic writing practice he writes his novels forward without planning research or revision inventing as he goes Ema the Captive is my third Aira novel and like the other two its story is an allegorization of the pleasures and perils of this procedure Like the other two I have read Ema concludes that there is in fact no forward in this life nor any separation of art from nature just an interlocking set of gestures and processes pursued by animal vegetable and mineral alike in the making and remaking of the world Ema the Captive has roughly four movements It begins with a military caravan of white men and convicts as they cross the pampas to reach a distant European outpost in the wilds of nineteenth century Argentina The hero of this section is a French engineer named Duval who is gradually initiated into Aira's endorsement of procedure for its own sakeBut he cherished the hope that the task assigned to him would be all encompassing and absorb his life entirely He could not in that state of mind have found satisfaction in anything less sublimeWe meet the Ema of the title only in passing; she is a white convict caring for her child though Aira mocks the arbitrariness of racial classification by noting that she does not at all look white but functions as white in both European and Indian racial economies because both groups wish her to be so for their own purposes She is eventually traded to the Indians and the second movement details her experiences with her husband Gombo in a native settlement near a European fort where she contemplates the colonel Espina's introduction of money into native society as a medium of pure and meaningless representation that somehow creates value one character makes the analogy to art clear Money is an arbitrary construction an element chosen purely for its effectiveness as a means of passing the time Their town is attacked by Indians from the frontier however and the third movement mimicking the first features Ema only as a side character as it details the languid melancholy Huysmans like pleasure of prince Hual on an island sojourn with his courtly retinue including Ema On this island he delivers himself of beautifully nihilistic speeches—Life he said is a primitive phenomenon destined to vanish entirely But extinction is not and will not be sudden Destiny is what gives the incomplete and the open their aesthetic force—as the Indians pull a fish like a very white woman out of the water thus certifying the universality of captivity In the fourth movement Ema decides to take some control of her fate by breeding pheasants and thus participating in the complicated and interconnected economies of various Indian nations and the white colonizers—like Espina like her creator she too wishes to invent a self replicating system of arbitrary values This should not be read as a conventional triumph however but only Ema's own initiation into what the other characters from Duval to Gombo to Hual to Espina have come to understand as Gombo tells Ema If it weren't impossible life would be horrific I take impossible to mean paradoxically both unendurable and full of infinite potential That was the last and definitive lesson remaining for her to learn Then everything fell into silence There was no anabasisOne could object all day long to this novel on political grounds from its blasé depiction of the heroine's rape to its wholly fantastical portrayal of Native Americans but this would be an external critiue and so somewhat beside the novel's point Wilde Those who find ugly meanings in beautiful things are corrupt without being charming which is that all life is a skein of procedures stretched over the void As this article explains Aira wrote the novel under conditions of a fascist regime so his apolitical styling was an evasion worth making Aira anyway evades the usual stereotypes in pursuit of new ones his victimized heroine is not the strong female character of captivity narratives celebrated from Mary Rowlandson to Ellen Ripley by a culture of imperialist feminism but a novitiate in the aesthetic clerisy while his Indians are not noble savages but like Wilde's Japanese a nation of exemplary artistsImitating them was like returning to the source Elegance is a religious perhaps even a mystical uality The aesthetics of polite society an imperative departure from the human But the Indians kept still; their sole occupation was hanging from the blue air like bats Ema the Captive is short but it took me a long time to read Aira remarkably recreates the trance like state of his benumbed characters as they contemplate the impossibility of everything In Chris Andrews's translation Aira's phantasmagoria comes to listless life feverishly dreamy grotesue and sexy a genuine and difficult pleasureThey realized that they were by chance about to witness the act of mating The male could barely control his excitement When he swam upside down they saw two horns one on either side of the anus as long and thick as pencils with sharp points The female turned over her anus was surrounded by bulbous rings of throbbing tissue The creatures coupled and sank to the bottom The water made their cries sound distant They tumbled in ecstasy still clamped together A web of white threads spread out around themI recommend Ema the Captive with reservations it is slow; it is in its way didactic but even the reservations are recommendations—it is as slow as its preponderant mood of entranced nihilism demands; what it propounds is the truth or one mood or mode of truth even if we are not usually permitted to admit that we find life meaningless and impossible To repurpose a line from the novel Aira's words stand out beautifully against the ambient strangenessThe complete severance of art from life—or the claim that life is art which amounts to the same separation as it undoes the hierarchy that allows art to be understood as a representation of nature—is the logical terminus of the aesthetic its becoming free like the droid bred alien that menaces the crew of the Covenant Art is too powerful to remain at large though; readers of my recent reviews those on Georg Lukács and Gillian Rose will know that I fully expect—and in some part of my divided psyche I even welcome—a forced recapture of art to affirmative values Maybe it has to be that way even from the perspective of art's own interests Aira is an end not a beginning and the paradox of aestheticist art as I am always saying is that it is less exciting than art that urgently narrates the conflict of values As he writes in this novel of an Indian ceremony Aira's work reuires the maximum of attention while rendering attention futile For now though we can say with Borges that Wilde was right whether we like it or not about art's separation from life and learn to enjoy along with Aira's text and Scott's subtext the fact that we are all in the end eually alien and that there is no known higher authority with whom we may covenant as we invent ourselves and our planet


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Ema la cautiva❮Reading❯ ➵ Ema la cautiva ➭ Author César Aira – Capitalsoftworks.co.uk In nineteenth century Argentina Ema a delicate woman of indeterminate origins is captured by soldiers and taken along with her newborn babe to live as a concubine in a crude fort on the very edges of In nineteenth century Argentina Ema a delicate woman of indeterminate origins is captured by soldiers and taken along with her newborn babe to live as a concubine in a crude fort on the very edges of civilization The trip is appalling deprivations and rapes prevail along the way yet the real story commences once Ema arrives at Ema la PDF \ the fort where she takes on a succession of lovers among the soldiers and Indians leading to a brave and grand entrepreneurial experiment As is usual with Aira’s work the wonder of the book is in the details of customs beauty and language and the curious perplexing reality of human nature.

10 thoughts on “Ema la cautiva

  1. Jenny (Reading Envy) Jenny (Reading Envy) says:

    I finished this book a week ago and have discussed it and mulled over it and I guess I should just go ahead and write a review The discussion and deep thinking have had a lot to do with uestions of the author's intent It is difficult to find many reviews in English of the work in fact all of them are written by men who say nothing about the brutal sexual violence of the situations Ema finds herself in One even went as far as saying that Aira is describing an idealized world that he wished he could return to I suspect he is referring to the nature writing but the complete omission of any discussion of the captivity element is troubling in every single professional review I readEma as far as we see her in the novel moves from the captivity of prison to the captivity of kept sexual partnerhousewife to the captivity of being taken by an indigenous group to the captivity of being traded as property between chiefs At some point she seems to be semi autonomous and returns to one of her previous residences view spoilerShe raises pheasants in captivity and I got the sense that the author felt that by Ema taking another creature into captivity she had regained control of her life and proved some kind of point hide spoiler

  2. lark benobi lark benobi says:

    I was disturbed by this novel Sometimes that can be a good thing I'm not sure whether it is in this case thoughEma felt to me throughout as I read as a horrific embodiment of a male fantasy Ema is an ever youthful ever desirable female who is subject to terrible violence along with her children being subject to it without her having much of a problem with it She just passively makes the best of things Because she is so passive about being carried off with regularity to be raped some then she doesn't really come across as a survivor who has agency and her ultimate successes feel very pasted on not believable The interstitial cuts to a male point of view throughout this novel all objectify Ema and focus on her sexual desirability in ways where I'm simply not sure what to make of them because the men raping her seem kind of reasonable and caring The messages I'm getting from the text are garbled because I'm not confident that Aira is in command of the subtext that this woman is a victim of serial torture His writing dovetails too neatly with misogyny and male fantasy for me to trust that he knows what he's doingSo one way to deal with this objectionable ness is to separate my feeling about the book from any notion of author intent If I do that as an exercise in alternative interpretation the novel becomes a deliberate farce I guess in a Candide like way of a character who decides she is in the best of all possible worlds Or maybe the novel can be read as an indictment of men treating women like animals or as a tribute to women's strength to overcome horrible abuse If I try to shoehorn any of these interpretations into my own reaction to the novel though I'm still unable to resolve how such a completely passive character could ever survive and prosper The novel reminded me of the DH Lawrence short story The Woman Who Road Away a story of a woman who is as passive as Ema is about her fate in a South American setting but whose ultimate fate is a lot believable frankly than Ema's

  3. Lobstergirl Lobstergirl says:

    Ema a delicate woman of indeterminate origins as the back cover explains she is considered white although she is the same color as the Indian women with either African or Indian features is taken captive from somewhere and journeys across some part of wild Argentina in a wagon convoy with soldiers and other prisoners The trip is ghastly the prisoners barely fed seeming barely human the food noxious When one male prisoner is seen copulating with a being of indefinite sex an officer cuts off his genitals and leaves the man hanging over the side of the wagon by the chain attached to his leg He passes out and bleeds to death his body left there for three days as the stench circulatesEma who has an infant son with her copulates with another officer When they arrive at the fort which is their destination she is given a husband and also becomes a concubine and also has dates in the woods with an Indian She will have three children rapidly over the course of the narrative One night Indians attack the fort and its environs and Ema's husband disappears She is taken to another area where again she serves as a concubine In and out of harems is Ema Does any of this bother her? It's hard to say Aira doesn't say and Ema's emotions aren't visible except for a reuest she makes to be reunited with her lost son at that point just a toddler which is grantedAbout 80% of the way through the novel she decides to return to the fort her current husband gives permission and proposes her start up to the commander a pheasant breeding farm He gives her a loan and twenty thousand hectares and she begins the breeding the descriptions of which are not pleasant semen extraction and fertilization and make even official visitors nauseatedMaybe the most interesting aspect of the novel was the large number of animal species both normal and extremely odd that pop up I didn't make a list of them but now I'm wishing I had as it would have distracted from the narrative's tediumThe novel is befuddling In their nonsensical way the blurbs tend to agree His novels are eccentric clones of reality where the lights are brighter the picture is sharper and everything happens at the speed of thought opines The Millions You don't know where you are or what you are looking at but the air is full of electricity Someone in Artforum hazards Aira's literature is but a parody of inventiveness and at its core is an amazing degree of penetrating and unrelenting critical reflexivity which is most likely what I would have come up with too if I'd had a set of Magnetic PoetryAira's Author's Note both clarifies and muddles as when he calls the novel a historiola I don't know what that is but it seems precisely correct He explains that he once worked as a translator of gothic novels odysseys in which the female protagonists sometimes English sometimes Californian transported the same old entanglements over hymenoptical oceans oceans of passionate tea He continues Naturally I enjoyed those books but over time I came to feel that there were too many passions canceling each out like air freshener He then decided to write a simplified gothic novel which this is it turned out that Ema my miniature self had created a new passion for me the passion for which all others can be exchanged as money is exchanged for all things indifference This oddest of statements turns out to explain much

  4. Ellie Ellie says:

    I looked forward to reading this work having very much enjoyed Argentinian writer Cesar Aira's work How I Became a Nun Ema the Captive is a much earlier work and I was curious to compare the twoEma the Captive is a very different type of book than How I Became a Nun It takes place in 19th Century Argentina out in the forests plains and mountains The atmosphere is extremely dreamlike and the writing beautifully lyrical although punctuated by episodes of shocking brutality It begins with a march of Spanish soldiers with a glimpse of a captive woman who later turns out to be Ema Although she is dark skinned Ema is for some reason regarded as white and therefore exotic amongst the other captives who are indigenous people The rest of the book recounts Ema's life with the indigenous populationWith many books I have the feeling half way through that I have basically read the book and there are no surprises other than with thrillers and mysteries where there is a punchline of sorts but the writing is still generally predictable With Ema I truly had no idea where the story was leading and what might happen Apparently Aira has said that he often writes without knowing where he is headed I enjoyed the almost vertiginous feeling of endless possibilities The writing is gorgeous with a dreamlike uality in the depiction of the life of the indigenous people and their surroundingsEma herself remains somewhat mysterious and undefined If I had any criticism of the book it would be how opaue her character is But that at the same time gave me great pleasureI look forward to reading of this writer's work He is an important Argentinian voice not so well known in this country who deserves to be read by many people Thanks to NetGalley the publisher New Directions and the author for the opportunity to read this lovely book in exchange for an honest review

  5. Elaine Elaine says:

    This is the first book I've read by Mr Aira and all I can say is this book is akin to the Monkey Festival InconclusiveEma the Captive was an inconclusive read filled with pseudo philosophical ramblings from men no less about money and existence interspersed with plenty of scenes of smoking gambling and lazing away your days Oh and pheasant farming Am I supposed to care about any of that?The short read was less about Ema than about the strange distant world she found herself living in She was mysterious only because Mr Aira portrayed her in that way She is distant aloof and in a way open to whatever life has meted out to her Life is always harsh and brutal for the fairer sex most especially during a time of civil unrest and the political climate is shaky and uncertain It is no less hedonistic during Ema's captivity and the strange lives she lives in this novel of 230 pages but it was less about her survival her fortitude and determination and about the boring typical one dimensional men she is married off to or meets on her journeys and their long winded abstract monologues about associating money with life and money with proving one's existence or something like that I really can't remember because I skipped the incoherent sermonic partsIn the end it all just sounded pretentious and boringOr maybe I'm just not smart enough to get it

  6. jeremy jeremy says:

    life he said is a primitive phenomenon destined to vanish entirely but extinction is not and will not be sudden if it were we would not be here destiny is what gives the incomplete and the open their aesthetic force then it retires to the sky destiny is a grand retiree it has nothing to do with the human body's anxious perceiving which is kinesthetic than visual or in any case imaginary than real destiny is concerned only with the flower but the flower has no weight; we want the melon the melon flower is like a little yellow brown orchid the vines of the melon spread over the ground chaotically in a way that is not life like at all we're interested in things that have solidity and give things that take up space not conversations the thirteenth of césar aira's works to be translated into english ema the captive ema la cautiva is the prolific argentine writer's second book completed in 1978 and first published in 1981 set in late 19th century argentina aira's early novel is the tale of its titular character's travails through slavery motherhood and pheasant farming though lacking much of the unconventionality and extraordinary narrative shifts that indelibly mark aira's later works ema the captive offers glimpses of his incipient style with his burgeoning talents already well apparent a boldness and strength of spirit imbues both the story as a whole and ema herself while the strangeness that alights upon the pages of his most recent works doesn't pervade in this story ema the captive is nonetheless yet one remarkable foray into the singular imagination of one of the spanish speaking world's finest authorstranslated from the spanish by chris andrews aira bolaño

  7. Jim Jim says:

    César Aira's Ema the Captive is one of the odd Argentinian's finest works We begin with a caravan of prisoners in wagons drawn by oxen headed to the settlement of Coronel Pringles several hundred miles southeast of Buenos Aires We see the strangeness that is Argentina indeed much stranger than it is in reality today from the point of view of a French engineer We see miniature dogs that weigh just a few ounces each There are massive snowstorms I don't think it ever snows in that part of Argentina We see a large herd of miniature seals that totally ignore the prisoners and their escortThe viewpoint shifts from the Frenchman to one of the female prisoners Ema who is granted to him as a concubine She then shacks up with a gaucho before a raid makes her a prisoner of various Indians This is before the massacre of Indians by the Argentinians euphemistically referred to as The Conuest of the Desert Finally she returns to Pringles and takes up a project of breeding pheasants The novels ends abruptly when she and her Indian workers visit a series of caves near Bahia BlancaBut then that is typical for Aira the man who never explains and never backtracks We never learn why Ema goes from one man to another She just does There is a great deal of incongruous humor The Indians are known largely for printing their own paper currency in any desired amount Strange as he may seem at times I do believe Aira is the best of the living Argentinian authors the inheritor of a literary tradition that goes back to Jorge Luis Borges Adolfo Bioy Casares Antonio di Benedetti and Juan Jose Saer

  8. Carla Carla says:

    Don't know how I feel about this book Ema moves around from different camps and appears to be a captive raped and yet the author wants us to believe she's okay with this and that she's an independent woman who can move to other camps? men? when the mood suits her? I found it very confusing and demoralizing I've never read anything written by this writer If this is how he portrays women how he normalizes them then I don't know I'd read I did enjoy the descriptions of the flora fauna and sea

  9. Matt Brown Matt Brown says:

    my favorite from aira that i've come across thus far ostensibly it's a straightforward western novel but over time his charateristic plot twists and philosophical wanderings are revealed it's told with a meloncholic and almost magical beauty that often left me feeling somewhat disoriented

  10. John Pistelli John Pistelli says:

    Reading and rereading Wilde over the years I note a fact that his panegyrists seem not even to have suspected the elementary and demonstrable fact that Wilde is nearly always right—Jorge Luis Borges On Oscar Wilde trans Esther Allen Art never expresses anything but itself It has an independent life just as Thought has and develops purely on its own lines It is not necessarily realistic in an age of realism nor spiritual in an age of faith So far from being the creation of its time it is usually in direct opposition to it and the only history that it preserves for us is the history of its own progress—Oscar Wilde The Decay of LyingI went to see Ridley Scott's Alien Covenant this weekend; I was surprised to discover that its villain aside from various iterations of H R Giger's monstrous xenophallus was Oscar Wilde or rather David self named for Michelangelo's sculpture an android become an omni cultured aesthete cultivator of monstrous lifeforms for their own sakes explicitly ueer seducer Condemning nature and himself artificial spawning new life not through insemination but through the ideological organization of organic matter including the forced insemination of others and the gender disordering conversion of men into mothers ie incubators for the aliens of the title the film's antagonist is a flagrant allusion to the Wilde archetype the Platonic idealist as dandiacal aesthete sexual antinomian threat to public order and eventually martyr To emphasize the stakes of the conflict David's victims are a crew of married couples on a mission to colonize a new planet in a bathetic attempt to offset the film's homophobic deep structure we are provided among the crew a gay married couple The film's emotional core is a scene wherein David attempts to seduce the crew's own android Walter Both played by Michael Fassbender the scene notable for the double entendres that had the frat bros in the audience cackling I'll do all the fingering David says as he teaches Walter to play a pipe evokes the Narcissus topos of gay male desire The seduction alas fails as we might have predicted from the two androids' verbal mannerism Fassbender plays David in homage to Anthony Hopkins's Hannibal Lecter all insinuatingly nasal cultivation while he plays Walter with the exaggerated accent British actors always use when their characters are supposed to be salt of the earth middle Americans The film seemingly pits family values against its ueer Satan who is monstrous than the monsters he manipulates and Scott and co cynically deploy homophobia and heterosexual titillation to keep those frat bro ticket buyers entertained; but I ultimately hesitate at the judgement that the film is homophobic Who could demiurgic David represent if not the film's maker? Who does an artist watching the film have to identify with besides its maestro of mayhem whether director Scott or Scott's surrogate droid? Family values the good in good vs evil are colors on the palette or tastes on the palate but the artist—whether Oscar Wilde or Ridley Scott David or myself—are in this for the excitement beyond good and evil The laborer in the factory of popular culture cannot publicly advertise amoral aestheticism however or not for long anyway There is too much money at risk too many constituencies to please so values must be affirmed Hence Alien Covenant's plucky widow its explicit protagonist en route to fertilize the cosmos Even a pop artist who does endorse aestheticism must eventually come back to hearth and home witness the current public spirited sorrow of poor Lana del Rey once our nightingale of sexual nihilism now so distressed over tensionsrising over country lines that she must ask like a PTA or PSA mom What about all of these children?In high culture—or as Pierre Bourdieu calls it the field of restricted production—you are allowed say Well what about them? And who cares anyway? Which vicious aloofness has this to recommend it if you can recall being a child you might remember that this was what you always wanted to say in the face of the adult world's furrowed brow Hence Wilde's theoretical essays and dialogues which are forthright in their dismissal of extra artistic interest from art; hence Borges's euanimity in contemplating the replacement of reality by fictions the process he narrates again and again which politico moral critics try to recoup as a critiue of totalitarianism like trying to convince yourself that pornography is a moral warning against fornication or as we now call it objectification By a commodious vicus of recirculation I return from Ridley Scott's interstellar jaunt to Argentina—not to Borges but to his distinguished successor in his country's avant garde César Aira who candidly tells an interviewer maybe all my work is a footnote to Borges maybe? I justify the above digression—can you begin an essay with a digression?—with the statement that Aira's second novel Ema the Captive now translated into English for the first time tells the same story as Alien Covenant right down to the breeding motif called by a character sodomy incarnate—ie ueer reproduction Though Aira wrote this book according to its subscription the year before the first Alien film's release this coincidence is not exactly an accident as both the avant garde novel and the pop culture film franchise are playing variations on the same coupling of narrative genres the imperial romance with the gothic romance Both narratives show colonizing missions derailed by inhuman assault The difference is that Aira's audience is a minuscule fraction of Scott's so he is allowed his indifference to public life—allowed that is to openly side with the inhuman Aira is an avant garde writer whose rejection of traditional novelistic realism and psychology takes the form of a sort of surrealist automatic writing practice he writes his novels forward without planning research or revision inventing as he goes Ema the Captive is my third Aira novel and like the other two its story is an allegorization of the pleasures and perils of this procedure Like the other two I have read Ema concludes that there is in fact no forward in this life nor any separation of art from nature just an interlocking set of gestures and processes pursued by animal vegetable and mineral alike in the making and remaking of the world Ema the Captive has roughly four movements It begins with a military caravan of white men and convicts as they cross the pampas to reach a distant European outpost in the wilds of nineteenth century Argentina The hero of this section is a French engineer named Duval who is gradually initiated into Aira's endorsement of procedure for its own sakeBut he cherished the hope that the task assigned to him would be all encompassing and absorb his life entirely He could not in that state of mind have found satisfaction in anything less sublimeWe meet the Ema of the title only in passing; she is a white convict caring for her child though Aira mocks the arbitrariness of racial classification by noting that she does not at all look white but functions as white in both European and Indian racial economies because both groups wish her to be so for their own purposes She is eventually traded to the Indians and the second movement details her experiences with her husband Gombo in a native settlement near a European fort where she contemplates the colonel Espina's introduction of money into native society as a medium of pure and meaningless representation that somehow creates value one character makes the analogy to art clear Money is an arbitrary construction an element chosen purely for its effectiveness as a means of passing the time Their town is attacked by Indians from the frontier however and the third movement mimicking the first features Ema only as a side character as it details the languid melancholy Huysmans like pleasure of prince Hual on an island sojourn with his courtly retinue including Ema On this island he delivers himself of beautifully nihilistic speeches—Life he said is a primitive phenomenon destined to vanish entirely But extinction is not and will not be sudden Destiny is what gives the incomplete and the open their aesthetic force—as the Indians pull a fish like a very white woman out of the water thus certifying the universality of captivity In the fourth movement Ema decides to take some control of her fate by breeding pheasants and thus participating in the complicated and interconnected economies of various Indian nations and the white colonizers—like Espina like her creator she too wishes to invent a self replicating system of arbitrary values This should not be read as a conventional triumph however but only Ema's own initiation into what the other characters from Duval to Gombo to Hual to Espina have come to understand as Gombo tells Ema If it weren't impossible life would be horrific I take impossible to mean paradoxically both unendurable and full of infinite potential That was the last and definitive lesson remaining for her to learn Then everything fell into silence There was no anabasisOne could object all day long to this novel on political grounds from its blasé depiction of the heroine's rape to its wholly fantastical portrayal of Native Americans but this would be an external critiue and so somewhat beside the novel's point Wilde Those who find ugly meanings in beautiful things are corrupt without being charming which is that all life is a skein of procedures stretched over the void As this article explains Aira wrote the novel under conditions of a fascist regime so his apolitical styling was an evasion worth making Aira anyway evades the usual stereotypes in pursuit of new ones his victimized heroine is not the strong female character of captivity narratives celebrated from Mary Rowlandson to Ellen Ripley by a culture of imperialist feminism but a novitiate in the aesthetic clerisy while his Indians are not noble savages but like Wilde's Japanese a nation of exemplary artistsImitating them was like returning to the source Elegance is a religious perhaps even a mystical uality The aesthetics of polite society an imperative departure from the human But the Indians kept still; their sole occupation was hanging from the blue air like bats Ema the Captive is short but it took me a long time to read Aira remarkably recreates the trance like state of his benumbed characters as they contemplate the impossibility of everything In Chris Andrews's translation Aira's phantasmagoria comes to listless life feverishly dreamy grotesue and sexy a genuine and difficult pleasureThey realized that they were by chance about to witness the act of mating The male could barely control his excitement When he swam upside down they saw two horns one on either side of the anus as long and thick as pencils with sharp points The female turned over her anus was surrounded by bulbous rings of throbbing tissue The creatures coupled and sank to the bottom The water made their cries sound distant They tumbled in ecstasy still clamped together A web of white threads spread out around themI recommend Ema the Captive with reservations it is slow; it is in its way didactic but even the reservations are recommendations—it is as slow as its preponderant mood of entranced nihilism demands; what it propounds is the truth or one mood or mode of truth even if we are not usually permitted to admit that we find life meaningless and impossible To repurpose a line from the novel Aira's words stand out beautifully against the ambient strangenessThe complete severance of art from life—or the claim that life is art which amounts to the same separation as it undoes the hierarchy that allows art to be understood as a representation of nature—is the logical terminus of the aesthetic its becoming free like the droid bred alien that menaces the crew of the Covenant Art is too powerful to remain at large though; readers of my recent reviews those on Georg Lukács and Gillian Rose will know that I fully expect—and in some part of my divided psyche I even welcome—a forced recapture of art to affirmative values Maybe it has to be that way even from the perspective of art's own interests Aira is an end not a beginning and the paradox of aestheticist art as I am always saying is that it is less exciting than art that urgently narrates the conflict of values As he writes in this novel of an Indian ceremony Aira's work reuires the maximum of attention while rendering attention futile For now though we can say with Borges that Wilde was right whether we like it or not about art's separation from life and learn to enjoy along with Aira's text and Scott's subtext the fact that we are all in the end eually alien and that there is no known higher authority with whom we may covenant as we invent ourselves and our planet

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