An Episode in the Life of a Landscape Painter – César Aira

Cesar Aira managed to put a 400-page novel in his 96-page book, An Episode in the Life of a Landscape Painter. I can say that it is a fascinating book. In fact, when I think of the book, I think of finely made small sculptures. One should not doubt the correctness of Bolano’s statement about Aira, “Once you start reading, you will not want to stop.” This little Aira book, which I have read for the first time, will be enough for me to read his other works. The fact that it is unlike anything I have read until this time is, of course, exciting.


An Episode in the Life of a Landscape Painter - César Aira

Rainer Maria Rilke suggests a lonely life in order to reach the depth and spirit required to become a real artist. However, to achieve the soul of the artist mentioned, being alone may not offer a bearable lifestyle. On his journey to Argentina to make landscape paintings, the German painter Rugendas has a tragic accident that makes his face and nervous system terrible. His ugliness and suffering push him away from his friends, forcing him into loneliness. His visions, fueled with morphine, makes him even more creative.

Johann Moritz Rugendas
Johann Moritz Rugendas

An Episode in the Life of a Landscape Painter, explaining the artist’s singularity and his place in the world, while Aira’s vivid narrative presents the fragile balance of existence.

There were such chapters in the book that I will never forget. They were scrapped one by one into my brain. This is a must-read for all the literature lovers out there. Enjoy!

An Episode in the Life of a Landscape Painter - César Aira

An Episode in the Life of a Landscape Painter

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 so 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 so irreversibly and explosively marks him for life.

César Aira

César Aira is an Argentinian writer and translator, and an exponent of contemporary Argentinian literature. Aira has published over a hundred short books of stories, novels and essays.

Reading this book contributed to these challenges: 

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