... a characteristically slim 98-page volume that presents as many riddles as answers, in which, in fact, the riddles are the answers ... deftly translated ... rendered as a series of surreal, often hilariously absurd vignettes ... Reading Aira can feel like being inside a picture, sliding from one plane of color to another, only to find yourself following a figure that suddenly slips outside the frame ... Aira captures the texture of the world by flying away from it. Rather than a rejection of reality, his dreamlike sequences are an acknowledgment of it, 'confirming, had there been any doubt, that there is no other world than this' ... In someone else’s hands, this might feel like a trick, but in Aira’s it is magical. With characteristic lightness he encapsulates, with a final narrative twist, the small, often funny turns that shape his captivating tales. If, as Aira writes, 'the games that Borges played with space-time in his work were secondary to his art of storytelling,' so too, it turns out, are Aira’s.
The coincidences and the rambunctious absurdism are nothing new to Aira's readers, but rarely before has the author seemed so purposeful ... The sensation of reading these story-digressions that are at times so digressive as to be unbearable is familiar for readers of Aira, but in The Divorce, he is almost singularly focused on space-time. It is a bit like bungee-jumping from Jupiter to the atomic level. And here, let me take advantage of this moment to note that in The Divorce, Aira has hit upon a burgeoning theme within academic history and literary criticism: narratives that traverse scale. 'Multi-scalar' can mean different things to different people, but to me it is exactly as Aira describes it: moving from the macro to micro in both space and time ... One of my favorite things about César Aira is just how blunt he is on the spatial and temporal background of that frozen moment ... The Divorce's stories serve as extended metaphors on the temporality of life in such a country. In a remarkable feint, Aira wraps his series of seemingly-digressive stories around Argentina writ large ... even if they're trifles, they're marvelous: magical spokes of the bicycle wheel that continues to spin stories.
Patti Smith’s companionable introduction tells us how she once ran into Aira at a literary festival and gushed about his novella An Episode in the Life of a Landscape Painter, only to realise later, on reading more of his work, that 'the qualities I had so admired... were commonplace to his process: just something he does'. It’s meant as a tribute to Aira’s 'vastly flexible, kaleidoscopic mind', but you could read his narrative habits another way, too, as a compulsive piling-up of event upon event. The titular divorce ends up seeming less to do with Kent’s marriage – a throwaway bit of narrative kindling about which we’re ultimately told next to nothing – than the oddly pressure-less relationship between word and meaning that is a side effect of Aira’s storytelling largess ... In the end I felt strangely ungrateful – after all, what more could you want? And yet it’s curious: fiction is nothing but a conjuring trick, sure, but we need to feel there’s something riding on it all the same.