This essay studies César Aira’s works through the notion of the contemporary. Following Giorgio Agamben, Theodore Martin, Julio Premat, and Lauren Berlant, I posit the contemporary to be a critical concept that provides strategies for historicizing the conditions of the ongoing present. In order to frame the discussion of the contemporary in Aira’s texts, I create a vocabulary of three aesthetic figures that lay bare his literary project: the sketch, the brief, and the precarious. The notion of the sketch allows Aira to register the contemporary before it becomes a historical event, whereas the description of his oeuvre as an accumulation of short forms gives the impression of a seemingly endless encyclopedic project. Lastly, I contend that in Aira’s works the contemporary does not come into view through the representation of historical events but through the development of new genres that track the disorienting historicity of crisis. Thus, I argue that Aira’s aesthetic procedure, which he insistently describes as a “flight forward,” serves as a device for registering the contemporary.


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pp. 143-159
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