In his slim, newly translated fictional memoir, The Linden Tree, Aira is at his best—full of conversational energy and nonstop whimsy ... the narrator’s youthful fascination reads spot-on, and creates a sense of exuberance that surges throughout the whole story ... The writing seems intentionally fast and ungrounded, a boat careening down white water rapids. It is a quick glimpse of the past rather than a reconstruction ... The vivacity of Aira’s language is more than enough to stay engaged in this sketch of his stand-in at a young age ... the emotions ring true, the writing is fun, and the ride is well worth the price of admission.
In The Linden Tree, a boy who climbs a tree during the coup d’état that overthrew Juan Domingo Perón’s democratic government becomes the reason the tree is cut down ... Peronism figures here as something like a childish stage in Argentine history, and Aira’s deceptively transparent fiction is testament to his ability to turn childlike fear into art. Aira’s work is varied and extensive, but The Linden Tree may be one of its best points of entry, affirming the existence of a Latin American literature that refuses to conform to the conventions and stereotypes of magical realism, social realism or other clichés about fiction from this part of the globe. Let it be, as Aira’s narrator puts it, 'our little world, our refuge and our secret.'
Though Aira is not quite as rambling here as in his other works, in deference to the memoir format, he maintains a stylistic quirkiness that leads him to jump from one topic to another, seemingly at random, in what comes across as a confessional tone. Touches of absurdity grace the pages ... A good introduction to Aira for those unfamiliar with him, as noted translator Andrews skillfully conveys the lively prose and subtle humor of this 2003 novel into English.
Fans of Aira may gain occasional insight into his writerly preoccupations from these discursions, but the seemingly random jumps between recollections prevent an edifying portrait of the novelist as a young man from emerging. While explaining his inclusion of a favored game, Aira wonders, 'who can say what might turn out to be important?' This novella cannot overcome his disinclination to make decisions about such crucial questions.
In a history laced slightly with the history of Peronism, Aira paints a colorful picture of his past along with a couple of pointed lessons about storytelling ... A funny, sardonic, and richly emotional journey through one man’s interior experience.