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Aira holds a fun-house mirror up to the genre of historical fiction in this novel about an aging Roman general on what may be his last campaign into the provinces.
By profession I am a soldier, a general in the glorious Roman army. As a playwright, I think of myself as a sublime amateur.
In Cesar Aira’s new novel, Fulgentius, a sixty-seven-year-old imperial Roman general—“Rome’s most illustrious and experienced”—is sent to pacify the remote province of Pannonia.He is a thoughtful, introspective person, a saturnine intellectual who greatly enjoys being on the march away from his loving family, and the sometimes deadly intrigues of Rome. Fulgentius is also a playwright (though of exactly one play) and in every city he pacifies, he stages a grand production of his farcical tragedy (written at the tender age of twelve) about a man who becomes a famous general only to be murdered “at the hands of shadowy foreigners.” Curiously, what he had imagined as a child turns out to be the story of his life, almost. As the playwright-turned-general broods obsessively about his only work, the magnificent Lupine Legion—“a city in movement” of 6,000 men, an invincible corps of seasoned fighters wearing their signature wolfskin caps—kills, burns, pillages, and loots their way to victory. But what does victory mean?
The poet and translator Chris Andrews has won the Valle Inclan Prize and the French-American Translation Prize for his work.
— Josep Massot - La Vanguardia
Never tedious, always thoughtful, Aira’s prose moves with great agility and effortless depth.
— Publishers Weekly
Aira’s stories seem like fragments of an infinite and interconnected universe in constant expansion.
— Patti Smith
Aira departs from his frequent setting of contemporary Argentina for a playful and fantastical jaunt into ancient history.
— Publishers Weekly