In Ghosts, Argentinian writer Cesar Aira describes events that take place on New Year’s Eve at a luxury Buenos Aires high rise construction site. The building is near completion and has been built by poor Chileans for wealthy Argentines. The Argentines are portrayed as superficial whereas the Chileans workers are “real” with the one unreal exception…these real Chileans can see that the building is infested with ghosts. The workers pay the ghosts no notice, except to occasionally tug on the ghosts’ penises as a gag while working. The ghosts just happen to all be nude males. There are no phantom-homoerotic undertones, nor are the Ghostbusters needed to deal with ghost malevolence.

There is little action in the book. In the morning the future Argentine owners inspect the site with their interior designers, a nephew of the main worker is sent to the store for food, the children of the one workers who lives at the site run wild, the workers get drunk at noon and take a siesta, everyone prepares for the New Year’s Eve party on the roof deck and occasionally ghosts float by. There are a lot of clever observations, comparisons and internal dialogue. In fairness, there also a lot of nonsense.

Cesar Aira is considered a plus writer. In one of the book’s main themes, he often alludes to the uniqueness of being Chilean. It’s probably something all fellow South Americans get, but North Americans can only speculate on, so something appreciable is lost in translation there. Otherwise the book is spotty, with equal tracts of dullness and interest. There is a big decision that is to be made at the end which makes that last 10-pages quite compelling.


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