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Ema the Captive
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New Directions 2016
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Ema The Captive, César Aira's second novel, is perhaps closest in style to his popular An Episode in the Life of a Landscape Painter and The Hare


In nineteenth-century Argentina, Ema, a delicate woman of indeterminate origins, is captured by soldiers and taken, along with 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 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.

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Format:
Adobe EPUB eBook, Kindle Book, OverDrive Read
Street Date:
12/06/2016
Language:
English
ISBN:
9780811226035
ASIN:
B01E9EHWSK

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Citations

APA Citation (style guide)

César Aira. (2016). Ema the Captive. New Directions.

Chicago / Turabian - Author Date Citation (style guide)

César Aira. 2016. Ema the Captive. New Directions.

Chicago / Turabian - Humanities Citation (style guide)

César Aira, Ema the Captive. New Directions, 2016.

MLA Citation (style guide)

César Aira. Ema the Captive. New Directions, 2016.

Note! Citation formats are based on standards as of July 2022. Citations contain only title, author, edition, publisher, and year published. Citations should be used as a guideline and should be double checked for accuracy.

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Date Added:
Jun 12, 2018 18:42:48
Date Updated:
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OverDrive Product Record

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      • role: Author
      • fileAs: Aira, César
      • bioText: CÉSAR AIRA was born in Coronel Pringles, Argentina in 1949, and has lived in Buenos Aires since 1967. He taught at the University of Buenos Aires (about Copi and Rimbaud) and at the University of Rosario (Constructivism and Mallarmé), and has translated and edited books from France, England, Italy, Brazil, Spain, Mexico, and Venezuela. Perhaps one of the most prolific writers in Argentina, and certainly one of the most talked about in Latin America, Aira has published more than 100 books to date in Argentina, Mexico, Colombia, Venezuela, Chile, and Spain, which have been translated for France, Great Britain, Italy, Brazil, Portugal, Greece, Austria, Romania, Russia, and the United States. One novel, La prueba, has been made into a feature film, and How I Became a Nun was chosen as one of Argentina's ten best books. Besides essays and novels Aira writes regularly for the Spanish newspaper El País. In addition to winning the 2021 Formentor Prize, he has received a Guggenheim scholarship, and was shortlisted for the Rómulo Gallegos prize and the Booker International Prize.

      • name: César Aira
      • role: Translator
      • fileAs: Andrews, Chris
      • bioText: The poet and translator Chris Andrews has won the Valle Inclan Prize and the French-American Translation Prize for his work.
      • name: Chris Andrews
subjects
      • value: Fantasy
      • value: Fiction
      • value: Literature
      • value: Historical Fiction
publishDate
2016-12-06T00:00:00-05:00
publishDateText
12/06/2016
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mediaType
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shortDescription

Ema The Captive, César Aira's second novel, is perhaps closest in style to his popular An Episode in the Life of a Landscape Painter and The Hare

In nineteenth-century Argentina, Ema, a delicate woman of indeterminate origins, is captured by soldiers and taken, along with 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 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.
isOwnedByCollections
True
title
Ema the Captive
fullDescription

Ema The Captive, César Aira's second novel, is perhaps closest in style to his popular An Episode in the Life of a Landscape Painter and The Hare

In nineteenth-century Argentina, Ema, a delicate woman of indeterminate origins, is captured by soldiers and taken, along with 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 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.
sortTitle
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reviews
      • premium: False
      • source: Michael Greenberg;The New York Review of Books
      • content: Aira's works are dense, unpredictable confections delivered in a plain, stealthily lyrical style capable of accommodating his fondness for mixing metaphysics, realism, pulp fiction, and Dadaist incongruities.
      • premium: False
      • source: The Millions
      • content: His novels are eccentric clones of reality, where the lights are brighter, the picture is sharper and everything happens at the speed of thought.... You don't know where you are or what you are looking at, but the air is full of electricity.
      • premium: False
      • source: Nicolás Guagnini;Artforum
      • content: Aira's literature is but a parody of inventiveness, and at its core is an amazing degree of penetrating and unrelenting critical reflexivity.
      • premium: True
      • source: Publisher's Weekly
      • content:

        September 19, 2016
        Chris Andrews’s adept translation of this early Aira (The Musical Brain) novel exhibits the cunning brilliance of one of Latin America’s most critically acclaimed authors. In 19th-century Argentina, Ema is transported to a frontier fort as a government prisoner. Later, during an attack on the fort, native tribesmen abduct Ema. She then spends years roaming indigenous kingdoms as a captive and a concubine. The story of Ema’s adaptability and perseverance evolves into an exploration of conflicts between human development and nature. The book succeeds in its rich, often tangential descriptions of Ema’s odyssey. Aira gradually widens the scope of the narrative through drifting “storms of thought.” At times philosophical, he relates distant settings and dire situations with astute observations on humanity. Although this is one of Aira’s more conventional novels, the book still demonstrates his playful and spontaneous style. Characters are often introduced and not given a name or description until much later, tones can shift dramatically in a single page, and the sense that anything could happen is present in every paragraph. The result is a substantive novel that moves quickly and often feels improvisational. This unpredictability aids the narrative by mirroring the instability in Ema’s life as she navigates an environment plagued by violence. Never tedious, always thoughtful, Aira’s prose moves with great agility and effortless depth.

      • premium: True
      • source: Kirkus
      • content:

        October 1, 2016
        A nearly 40-year-old novel by one of Argentinas most prolific writers, finally available in translation. Translating a decades-old novel may seem redundant, but this title is helped by the fact that its a historical story and also because it reveals the first blush of talent by Aira (Dinner, 2015, etc.), who remains one of his countrys most nimble practitioners. This languid exploration of a life lived in slavery is set in the late 19th century; the title character is a young mother who's captured on the road by a group of rough-hewn soldiers in the company of Duval, a French engineer bound for a remote fort. Aira creates a bit of literary alchemy by opening the book with the soldiers rather than their captive and then letting Ema completely hijack the narrative; by the time the novel ends some years later, she has fully captured the imagination of her creator and somehow inhabits a world of her own choosing. Shes an interesting character, offering different things to different captors. To Duval, shes a tiny, dark, deranged cloud, while to subsequent lovers and husbands, she appears very differently. She is protective of her children, including her young son and two subsequent little girls. But Ema also remains largely aloof as a character, merely the medium through which Aira spins his poetic, languorous tale. What Ema mostly wants is to see the world for what it is; she possesses a desire to grasp the secret of the present, to penetrate the eternal unity of life and see the systems undulating veil. Appearing in a story that's largely about lawlessness and casual sexuality, Ema has a fierceness that makes her compelling. Aira is part of a long tradition of revising Argentina's "authentic" history, but his immense talent makes that process seamless to readers. An elegant, almost ethereal story of one womans survival.

        COPYRIGHT(2016) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

      • premium: True
      • source: Library Journal
      • content:

        October 1, 2016

        Distinguished Argentinian author Aira, a finalist for the Man Booker International Prize 2015, here offers what he calls a "'simplified' gothic novel," inspired by the books he used to translate for money. But there's nothing simple about this grandly written take on the captivity narrative. It opens in 19th-century Argentina with a group of soldiers making their way to a frontier fort with crammed-together, barely fed captives in tow. One soldier explains to a startled Frenchman with the convoy that these white women are mere tokens of exchange on the frontier, taken away from home for the smallest misdemeanors. Among the captives is young Ema, with her baby, and when she arrives at the fort she's given to a drunken officer named Paz. Ema is, however, tougher than she looks and trades around men herself, eventually establishing a bird-breeding enterprise that allows her to thrive. VERDICT An enthralling portrait of a time, a place, and one resilient woman that a wide range of readers will enjoy; refreshingly, Aira never writes the same book twice.

        Copyright 2016 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

      • premium: True
      • source: Booklist
      • content:

        November 1, 2016
        On the surface, prolific Argentine writer Aira's newly translated second novel, originally published in 1981, eschews the magical fantasy and silly nonsense that distinguish his shorter fiction, prevalent in the stories collected in The Musical Brain (2015). Instead, readers are transported to the frontier in nineteenth-century Argentina, as a convoy of soldiers and convicts treks across the countryside, and embattled native peoples struggle to survive on the colonial periphery. These worlds collide when Ema, stranded with her infant child among the exiled prisoners, is taken captive and forced to serve as a concubine in a remote fortress. And yet, in his ability to locate poetry in the pampasendless fields of chamomile and beetles like jewels burrowing in the grassand his keen sense of literary mockery, Aira executes a nuanced parody by challenging the conventions of nineteenth-century literature (the title character is a dark inversion of Jane Austen's chaste matchmaker protagonist). Driven forward by an unpredictable momentum and clever narrative construction, Aira's novel delivers a truly unique contribution to literature, to be read with Tayeb Salih's Season of Migration to the North (1969) and J. M. Coetzee's Waiting for the Barbarians (1982).(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2016, American Library Association.)

popularity
93
publisher
New Directions
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bisacCodes
      • code: FIC019000
      • description: Fiction / Literary
      • code: FIC040000
      • description: Fiction / Alternative History
      • code: FIC061000
      • description: Fiction / Magical Realism