The Hare is a playful, absurdist, serious philosophical little book that reads like a child making up a story as he goes, but filled with the sophisticated tools of a true artist. The contradictions are part of the game, a bit like, as a character says, the “word for ‘government’ which signifies, in addition to a whole range of other things, a ‘path,’ but not just an ordinary path – the path that certain animals take when they leap in a zigzag fashion…although at the same time we ignore their deviations to the right and left, which due to a secondary effect of the trajectory end up of course not being deviations at all, but a particular kind of straight line.” Describing the multiplicity of meanings for words in the Huilliche tongue, Aira leads us to think that he can’t possibly mean anything that he’s saying on the surface. Or can he? Ostensibly a story about a British naturalist (brother-in-law to Darwin) roaming the Argentine pampas in search of the Legibrerian hare, in fact, The Hare is about all kinds of things like narrative versus reality, war and violence, life and death, love, chance, politics, and colonialism. And it’s lots of fun to think about.
— Sara, Atlanta
When a Mapuche chief suddenly goes missing, a British naturalist is asked to find him in the vast Argentine pampas
Clarke, a nineteenth-century English naturalist, roams the pampas in search of that most elusive and rare animal: the Legibrerian hare, whose defining quality seems to be its ability to fly. The local Indians, pointing skyward, report recent sightings of the hare but then ask Clarke to help them search for their missing chief as well. On further investigation Clarke finds more than meets the eye:in the Mapuche and Voroga languages every word has at least two meanings.Witty, very ironic, and with all the usual Airian digressive magic, The Hare offers subtle reflections on love, Victorian-era colonialism, and the many ambiguities of language.
About the Author
Nominated for a Neustadt award and the Man Booker International Prize, César Aira was born in Coronel Pringles, Argentina, in 1949. He has published at least one hundred books and recently created a limited edition, “Valise,” for the Museum of Modern Art, NYC.
Nick Caistor is a translator, editor, and author. He has written a biography of Octavio Paz and has translated the works of José Saramago, Paulo Coelho, and Julián Ríos, among others.
To love the novels of Cesar Aira you must have a taste for the absurd, a tolerance for the obscurely philosophical and a willingness to laugh out loud against your better judgment.... The Hare makes the flat, monotonous pampas as strange and unpredictable as Wonderland.... you'll find there are few adventures more outrageous, and more unsettling, than this cowboy chase through the pampas in search of the white rabbit.
The novel moves erratically, never quite landing where you think, and as mysterious subplot after subplot is introduced, one may be forgiven for suspecting that Aira is playing a joke at the expense of the reader, but in his masterful hands, ambiguity eventually builds to order, mystery to revelation, and every digression turns out to have a purpose — all without ever undercutting the fundamental tension that Aira has created between his reasoned protagonist and the novel's ambiguous setting.
Aira’s refusal to make any occurrence definitive gives the world depicted in the novel an element of the absurd. The result can be as frustrating as it is liberating. Whether or not Clarke ultimately catches sight of the hare is beside the point. Even if he found it, we’d soon discover that, maybe, after all, he didn’t. Or that it wasn’t a hare at all.
Aira's literary significance, like that of many other science fiction writers, comes from how he pushes us to question the porous line between fact and fantasy, to see it not only as malleable in history, but also blurred in the everyday. The engrossing power of his work, though, comes from how he carries out these feats: with the inexhaustible energy and pleasure of a child chasing after imaginary enemies in the park.