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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

The Proof

César Aira

general information | review summaries | our review | links | about the author

To purchase The Proof

Title: The Proof
Author: César Aira
Genre: Novel
Written: 1992 (Eng. 2017)
Length: 76 pages
Original in: Spanish
Availability: in The Little Buddhist Monk & The Proof - US
La prueba - US
The Proof - UK
in The Little Buddhist Monk & The Proof - Canada
La preuve - France
Der Beweis - Deutschland
La prueba - España
  • Spanish title: La prueba
  • Translated by Nick Caistor

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Our Assessment:

B+ : nicely spiraling-out-of-control tale

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
NZZ . 23/6/2015 Eberhard Geisler
The Spectator . 8/4/2017 Louis Amis
Die Zeit . 13/5/2015 Merten Worthmann

  From the Reviews:
  • "Immer wieder werden Erwartungen durchkreuzt (.....) Am Schluss wird der Überfall auf den Supermarkt mit dem Urknall verglichen, der Geburt eines neuen Universums, aber die Zivilisationen, die dabei entstehen, beruhen auf «anderen Prämissen» -- die Idee des Ursprungs wird zitiert, zugleich aber als Abweichung von sich selbst gedeutet." - Eberhard Geisler, Neue Zürcher Zeitung

  • "The Proof is an exceptionally good novella, in the mould of other avant-garde Latin American writing of that era; not dissimilar to something Roberto Bolaño might have written, or the Colombian Andrés Caicedo" - Louis Amis, The Spectator

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:

       The Proof begins with the very direct pick-up line: "Wannafuck?" -- a proposition that is repeated several times over the course of the story. Sixteen year-old, somewhat overweight Marcia is meandering around, and encounters the lesbian punk pair that call themselves Mao and Lenin who latch onto her. She's not exactly won over by their offer or their attitudes, but they are insistent, and she does engage with them, eventually joining up with them and going with them to a fast food joint (a Pumper Nics -- a once popular but now out-of-business Argentine chain) and then to a supermarket.
       The two punks are wild -- certainly not conforming to the expectations of, say, how to behave in a restaurant. Their behavior is unpredictable and tends to the outrageous. Marcia is repelled -- repeatedly wanting to separate herself from them -- but also intrigued. She argues: "There's nothing more to say", yet repeatedly they pull her back in, because there most certainly is.
       Surprisingly, too, they have things to offer, shaking Marcia out of the dull complacency of the everyday (albeit, by the end, perhaps rather extremely), including, for example, in the simple act of storytelling (which is, of course, what author Aira is at here too ...):

     Marcia couldn't believe it. This was the first time in her life that she had heard a well-told story, and it had seemed to her sublime, an experience that made up for all the fears this meeting had caused.
       (Typically, though, even here she thinks along societal norms, wanting to show her appreciation: "she couldn't help thinking of the rules of etiquette there must be in such cases").
       The Proof is also a love story. Sort of. Or of an unusual sort, anyway. Not your typical romance, not even the kind Mao's crude beckoning "Wanna fuck?" might suggest. And, as with the other stories Aira tells here, it is as much about love in the (most) abstract as it is in about the tangibly personal.
       Mao has strong opinions about love; her acts are ultimately a show -- a proof -- of love in its absolute. She claims to Marcia: "My love has transformed you" -- and then goes beyond, offering an even more radical and complete transformation. And Marcia has to admit, it's pretty convincing. She's won over, in a manner of speaking:
Beauty and difference exploded in the night, and the transformation they were creating was not, unlike the others she thought she had perceived (this one changed their nature) a turning of the page to a new version of the world, but the transformation of the world into the world.
       If The Proof starts out largely as a story of conversation, or at least exchanges, the girls goading, flirting, challenging, philosophizing (and theorizing), it ends in pure action. Aira presents it as vividly and colorfully as he does the simple(r) talk -- "the severed head traced an arc through the air in which all the brutal light and darkness of the fire was vividly etched" -- a powerful conclusion to a tale that rumbles like an irritant at a low level before bursting beautifully-horribly beyond all its seams.
       Another impressive little work from the very creative master.

- M.A.Orthofer, 18 April 2017

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The Proof: 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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© 2017-2024 the complete review

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