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THE LIME TREE | BOOK REVIEW

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Book Review

César Aira, trans: Chris Andrews (And Other Stories)

Although the narrator is not explicitly declared to be César Aira, The Lime Tree certainly seems to be a fictionalised autobiography of the Argentinian author. Set in Aira’s hometown of Coronel Pringles, the book narrates many childhood incidents. The nature of memory, how thoughts link and how they make connections to other instances are depicted wonderfully.

Set in the wake of a tense political climate, where our narrator’s father finds himself on the losing side of the Revolución Libertadora, the fallout establishes an explanation of his home-life, where the narrator’s father becomes very introverted and easily agitated. In contrast to his laconic father, his mother has frequent outbursts which she deems necessary to keep her husband calm and from speaking.

This is also where the eponymous lime tree comes in: the flowers from the tree are used to make a relaxing tea for the father. The novel opens with a depiction of a lime tree and at the end, when the narrator thinks he is in a part of the village he is not familiar with, it is a memory of the lime tree that brings him to a nostalgic realisation. Jumping from anecdote to anecdote means the reader is carried along in confusion at times, at least until the next link is established, but this reflects the often-jumbled way in which we remember.

Through these anecdotes, sometimes involving local characters, cultural customs and the (mis)understandings of youth, Aira creates a captivating exploration of childhood impressions and how these go on to inform our adulthood.

Price: £8.99. Info: http://www.andotherstories.org/

words LUCY MENON

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