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Darren Huang

César Aira's <br><i>Ema, the Captive</i>

César Aira's
Ema, the Captive

Reviewed by Darren Huang

The story of a Homeric return is at the heart of Ema, the Captive, the second of more than fifty novels César Aira has written to date. On the surface, the book’s storyline, set in nineteenth-century Argentina, might seem conventional: a white woman living tranquilly on the periphery of a European stronghold is kidnapped by a band of natives and sold into captivity. She serves as a concubine to various chiefs and magistrates within the Indian kingdom and dispassionately observes their way of life. After an extended period, she returns to her former village and introduces elements of native culture to her people. But Aira is a sly and ironic writer, and cannot take such a realist plot seriously...