12 October 2012

Aira on past tense

In the May issue of the Colombian magazine El Malpensante, Guillermo Martínez questions your idea of “diminishing returns” and its influence on cultural criticism and narrative in Argentina.

[Translator's Note: Writing about the “myth of the avant garde” in literature, Aira has said, “To go just one step beyond, as Proust did, requires an unheard of effort and an entire life’s sacrifice. The law of diminishing returns is in effect, by which the innovator covers nearly the entire field in his initial gesture, and leaves those who come after him with an increasingly smaller space, where it is difficult to move forward.”]

I didn’t know Martínez was criticizing me again. The last time I saw him, I advised him not to write his stories and novels in the present tense. Maybe he took it hard. I think almost all the prose works being published by young writers in Argentina are written with the verbs in the present tense. I don’t know why these authors don’t realize how much that detracts from their writing. The story becomes flat, it loses perspective, it takes on an oral tone, but a cheap kind of oral tone, like a witness to a car accident being interviewed by a television reporter.

- from a Two-part interview with César Aira

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