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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction


César Aira

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To purchase Festival

Title: Festival
Author: César Aira
Genre: Novel
Written: 2011 (Eng. 2024)
Length: 96 pages
Original in: Spanish
Availability: in: Festival & Game of the Worlds - US
Festival - US (Spanish)
in: Festival & Game of the Worlds - UK
in: Festival & Game of the Worlds - Canada
Festival - España
from: Bookshop.org (US)
  • Spanish title: Festival
  • Translated by Katherine Silver

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Our Assessment:

B : enjoyable Airan tale

See our review for fuller assessment.

The complete review's Review:

       The festival of the title is a huge independent film festival -- "A total of five hundred films from all over the world would be shown" --, with Belgian director Alec Steryx the central figure. Not only has he been chosen to preside over the Grand Jury, but even more significantly the centerpiece of the festival is a retrospective of his work, the first time all his films were to be shown in one place. He's made a lot of them over his long career, so they have to screen seven of his films a day for the week and a half of the festival's duration.
       Steryx is a: "director of European B-list science fiction movies"; they are all exactly ninety minutes in length, and set in a distant place and future -- some 40,000 light-years on. The director of the local Cinematheque and a member of the organizing committee, Perla Sobietsky, has written a book on Steryx -- it: "aspired to be a testament to her deep understanding of his life's work rather than the blind admiration of a fan" -- and hopes to impress the director with it.
       The organizers are willing to fly in and put up not just Steryx but also a companion -- but everyone is surprised when he shows up with his mother. Somewhere around ninety, not in the best of health, and taking issue with everything, the old lady proves to be a terrible millstone, especially since she accompanies -- very, very slowly -- Steryx everywhere and: "Whether at breakfast, lunch, or in meetings, her general malaise prevailed". The festival folk try to be accommodating, but she makes nothing easy -- and everyone keeps wondering why Steryx insisted (or agreed) on bringing her.
       The festival proceeds as these often do, with much mutual misunderstanding -- the language-issues, and practically any attempts at communication with mother Steryx, don't help -- and varieties of minor mishaps and points of confusion. Among other things, the director's mother also proves enterprising, having come with copies of a book of her own she wants to sell, while the largest local newspaper publishes a hit-piece on Steryx -- "The director's answers to the interviewer's questions, literally accurate, had been edited to make him sound like an idiot" -- though with few ramifications (helped also by the fact that at least some simply misread it).
       Between Steryx's creative vision -- his odd films -- and the continuing open question of why on earth he brought his mother (and the painful drag she is on practically everything done by and around Steryx), Festival is an entertaining little chronicle of a typical large-scale, ambitious, and 'arty' art-festival -- where: "The audiences, although not numerous, were enthusiastic". Trying to counter the sheer badness of commercial cinema that, for most of the year, was all that could be found in movie houses, the festival ("with its films that nobody watched") tries to stand against the contemporary lowering of standards -- with mixed success.
       It makes for an amusing look at contemporary art and culture -- what applies here to film goes as much for literature or other arts --, neatly observed in typical Aira-fashion.

- M.A.Orthofer, 10 June 2024

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Festival: Reviews: 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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© 2024 the complete review

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