MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

The Argentine writer Cesar Aira has published dozens of books in his native Spanish. The latest to be translated into English came out this week, and author Pablo Medina says it's captivating.

PABLO MEDINA: Cesar Aira's novel "The Miracle Cures of Dr. Aira" is short. It's only 80 pages, but it's so intense and full of absurdity and philosophy, that it feels longer. It has these great details - evil arch-enemies, suspicious men disguised as doctors, an ambulance that only goes in a straight line.

The book centers on Dr. Aira, but don't confuse him with the author, even though they have the same name. Dr. Aria likes to wander through the streets. And as he walks around, he thinks up miracle cures to imagined illnesses.

He also has a nemesis, the sinister Dr. Actyn. He's the chief of medicine at the local hospital, and he's out to disprove Aira's cures.

Just as Aira decides that he'll never perform a miracle and become a writer instead, something happens. He's asked to cure a man with cancer. Cesar Aira writes that the doctor's head was crackling, as if it were full of soda, and he accepts the challenge.

Aira decides to create a parallel universe where the sick man's death is not possible. By the time he's done, the room has become a universe where the patient can't die.

Cesar Aira's books often have an element of quirky absurdity, and this one is the same. It reads like a parable, but in the end there's no moral teaching. Not much has happened, but you haven't noticed. You've been too busy living in the hero's mind. And it's so wonderfully eccentric, the book is hard to put down.

BLOCK: Pablo Medina is the author of "Cubop City Blues." He reviewed "The Miracle Cures of Dr. Aira" by Cesar Aira.

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