I went into reading César Aira’s Shantytown completely blind. I didn’t know anything about the plot, and I had never read any of his other works. All I knew was that my pops is a huge fan. I am so glad I entered Shantytown with no preconceptions; it’s rare to be able to achieve that. But, even if I had some prior knowledge or even an inkling to what the plot was, there is no way it would have ruined the Aira experience, because he is a master of the unexpected.
10 pages into reading Shantytown I had a solid idea of the kind of novel it would be. 150 pages later, I was proven wrong, in the best way possible.
Aira takes you on a beautifully interwoven and smartly paced journey filled with enticing characters, corruption, and suspense, which leaves you thinking “I don’t know how the hell I got here, but I sure loved the ride.” Somehow he manages to decorate all of this with honesty and moments of genuine human goodness.
I don’t want to touch on the plot or specifics of the characters, because I want you to have as similar an experience as I did. So, I will end on this note: Aira is a special gem in the world of contemporary fiction. While Shantytown is my only experience reading him thus far, I am confident that I will enjoy a similar thrill from his other works. His genius is blatantly apparent.
Rating: 5 Light bulbs