Critical Mass

Mark Doty on Cesar Aira’s “An Episode in the Life of a Landscape Painter”

By Mary Doty

The month of June kicks off Reading the World. As part of this project, the NBCC has asked writers from around the globe to recommend a book from beyond these shores. We asked NBCC-winning poet and memoirist Mark Doty what he had to recommend and he responded by picking Cesar Aira's “An Episode in the Life of a Landscape Painter.”

“This startlingly compact novel (just 87 pages) concerns the sufferings of a German painter, Johann Rugendas, who journeyed into Latin America in the first half of the 19th century with the intention of recording the landscape for art buyers back home. But Rugendas is practically destroyed when he enters into the alluring emptiness of the Pampas, and this bracingly strange little book becomes a meditation on representation, what art costs us, and on the encounter between worlds.”


–Mark Doty