Summer Shorts: 10 Novellas Perfect for Literary Lounging

Varamo, César Aira

Length: 144 pages

Summary: In 1923 Panama, a civil servant, Varamo, is paid in counterfeit bills, panics, and distracts himself by focusing on an embalming project. Oh, and he also spends the night writing an epic poem soon hailed as a national masterpiece.

Author: César Aira (b. 1949) was born in Coronel Pringles, Argentina, in 1949. He has published more than seventy books of fiction and essays.

First lines: “One day in 1923, in the city of Colon (Panama), a third-class clerk, having finished work, and, since it was payday, passed by the cashier’s desk to collect his monthly salary, left the Ministry in which he was employed. In the interval between that moment and the dawn of the following day, ten or twelve hours later, he completed the composition of a long poem, from the initial decision to write it up to the final period, after which there were no further additions or corrections.”

Our Twitter-length review: Take the most modern piece of writing you can think of, add a “post” in front of it, and you’ve got an apt description of Varamo. Playfully cerebral.