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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction


César Aira

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To purchase Artforum

Title: Artforum
Author: César Aira
Genre: Novel
Written: 2014 (Eng. 2020)
Length: 80 pages
Original in: Spanish
Availability: Artforum - US
Artforum - US (Spanish)
Artforum - UK
Artforum - Canada
Artforum - España
  • Spanish title: Artforum
  • Translated by Katherine Silver

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Our Assessment:

B : fun little collection

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The LA Times . 1/4/2020 Tyler Malone
Publishers Weekly . 2/12/2019 .
World Lit. Today . Spring/2020 Will H. Corral

  From the Reviews:
  • "(F)ixated as it is on Artforum, it's really a book about artforms. (...) Aira is interested in how we create our obsessions and how our obsessions create us. It's a reciprocal process -- for him and for the reader, who must also make webs of meaning out of the odd, ambiguous forms his stories take. (...) The new novel won't disappoint those fans, but for the uninitiated, is Artforum a good place to start ? As with most random issues of a great magazine, it's as good a place to start as any. It represents the oeuvre while subverting it in idiosyncratic particulars." - Tyler Malone, The Los Angeles Times

  • "As Aira illuminates the dead ends in his drive to collect the magazine, he offers rich insight into the appreciation of art and the desire to possess. This entertaining jaunt through the writer's creative development satisfies with brevity and grace." - Publishers Weekly

  • "Aira does not know if he wants to break or refill his pages with interjections and stops whenever he feels like it. Since he believes that the spirit of narrative becomes a painting, here he visualizes a story of sorts." - Will H. Corral, World Literature Today

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Artforum is a short work by César Aira that focuses on his obsession with the art magazine Artforum. Many of the chapters/pieces conclude with a date, suggesting this is a chronological record, from 1983 to roughly 2013, and while the pieces/episodes can generally stand on their own as well, there is some sense of progression -- with Aira's difficulties with the subscription for the magazine he takes out, for example.
       In the early opening piece, Aira already admits how much the magazine means to him:

My favorite was Artforum, to which I had been faithful for years, and recounting my adventures to acquire it would fill a book. It was my luxury, my fantasy.
       There's an element of the bibliomanic to his obsession, the magazine as object and fetish -- as he admits that: "if I were offered the entire contents of Artforum without Artforum I wouldn't be interested". Yet he also maintains: "I am not a collector, not at all".
       Part of the appeal clearly lies in the simple difficulty of obtaining the magazine, whether new or old copies (and Aira is interested in both). It is not impossible to find, but it is unusual to stumble across a copy in Aira's Buenos Aires; the pleasure of chance, fortuitous discovery plays a part in Aira's obsession. One episode describes a rare large haul, when a gallery owner's library goes up for sale and he manages to collect: 'Twenty-four Issues of Artforum' -- a memorable day (December 6, 2002, he remembers), "one of those days that make you think that life would be perfect if all of life were like that". (In fact the entire episode is suspect (or poorly copyedited ...), because 6 December 2002 was a Friday, while central to the story is that the day is a Monday ..... [The Spanish original also has it as 6 December 2002.])
       Aira does eventually plump for a subscription, but although this promises regularly scheduled delivery to his door of the magazine, it proves undependable; the acquisition of copies of Artforum remains uncertain -- though even an impatient Aira, constantly checking the mail, seems to like that aspect of it, or at least find it appropriate.
       Aira does explore why he is so drawn to Artforum, in particular -- insisting, too, that: "Artforum was not an end in itself", as:
In the end, of course, it was the art. Artforum was the first step that led along the road that led to that end, the eternal, immense and marvelous first step.
       But the focus in this little volume remains almost entirely on the stepping-stone. and his experience around (rather than with) it, rather than where it leads him -- which does makes for a neat little light variations-on-a-theme/subject collection.
       Artforum is a nice quick bite of a book.

- M.A.Orthofer, 19 February 2020

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Artforum: Reviews: Artforum - the magazine: César Aira: Other books by César Aira under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Argentinian author César Aira was born in 1949.

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© 2020-2022 the complete review

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