2 Books by César Aira

The Proof, written in 1989, opens with a nerdy 16-year-old girl walking at dusk down a city street thronged with other teenagers. Marcia feels herself slowing down ‘through the soft resistance of the light and darkness, silence and the glances exchanged between face and face’. Suddenly, she is crudely accosted by two lesbian ‘punks’. The three end up going to a café, where they have a long, taut, unpredictable debate about love, which lasts through 50 pages. (Aira’s stories always have a highly challenging, even bewildering philosophical core; that they are nevertheless so easy and fun to read might be their most supernatural quality.)

The punks are nihilists, but they believe in love — and they love Marcia. Eventually, they offer to prove it to her: in an astounding finale, this ‘proof’ begins with one of the punks locking the doors of a nearby supermarket from within (‘when a padlock closes it’s as if it will never be able to be opened again, as if the key had somehow already been lost’). It culminates with a woman set on fire…

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