A beautiful memoir inspired by Aira’s 50th birthday, Birthday is worthy of serious philosophical attention: lengthy digressions tell one explicitly how Aira perceives the past, the present, and the future, but what clarifies all his work is how he how he wrangles strangeness out of the quotidian.
...Aira’s books are ... idiosyncratic...feverishly pleasurable and smirkingly funny. His stories begin with a simple premise and stretch to wild extremes ... Birthday settles itself somewhere more firmly as a memoir. Or so it seems, because it’s hard to tell with Aira. He has a tendency to string a reader along in one direction and then turn them around quickly, mixing details from his life into his fiction and vice versa. What you think you’re reading is often something else, and the difference is beside the point ... Aira hits a...melancholic note at the end of Birthday. After twisting and turning around the meaning behind his own writing, he realizes that the thing itself will never go away, both a blessing and a curse.
... a strange sort of author’s manifesto, and an apologia for Aira’s own discursiveness ... The ironic underpinning of the work, of course, is that Aira’s yen for distraction is part of the generative force behind his writings, and one of the main reasons for his fame ... As with many of Aira’s novelettes, there’s something dry, almost aseptic ... Aira’s lack of a larger schema under which his atomism of speculations would fall into order ultimately makes Birthday an unsatisfying venture.