That was the question I found myself asking, over and over again, while reading Cesar Aira’s Ema la Cautiva (“Emma, the Captive”–there’s. Download Citation on ResearchGate | Cruzando fronteras: ‘Ema, la cautiva’ de César Aira | The article deals with the definition of the frontier, in order to. Buy Ema, la cautiva (Spanish Edition): Read 1 Kindle Store Reviews – Amazon. com.
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Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read. Want to Read saving…. Want cautiga Read Currently Reading Read. Refresh and try again. Open Preview See a Problem? Thanks for telling us about the problem. Return to Book Page. Paperbackpages. Published December 1st by iUniverse first published To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.
To ask other readers questions about Ema, la Cautivaplease sign up. Lists with This Book. I finished this book a week ago and have discussed it and mulled over it, and I guess I should just go ahead and write cautivaa review! The discussion and deep thinking have had a lot to do with questions of the author’s intent.
It is difficult to find many reviews in English of the work, in fact all of them are written by men cautuva say nothing about the brutal sexual violence of the situations Ema finds herself in.
One even went as far as saying that Aira is describing an “idealized” world that he wishe I finished this book a week ago cautiav have discussed it and mulled over it, and I guess I should just go ahead and write a review! Fma even went as far as saying that Aira is describing eam “idealized” world that he wished he could return to.
I suspect he is referring to the nature writing, but the complete omission of any discussion of the captivity element is troubling in every single “professional” review I read.
At some point she seems to be semi-autonomous and returns to one of her previous residences. They are present but as an afterthough. We only really see Ema’s story as it relates to the activity important to the men, such as an ambush or a party or a battle. In important moments in Ema’s life, the author doesn’t give us any information. I kept asking why this was. Is he making a point that he is also keeping Ema as a captive, to only write about her in a way that interests him?
Or is it merely that the author is writing this novel in Argentina in and this is just the view of women in that time? Is it a cultural oversight? Or is he saying something more? I actually am not sure, not at all. But the question continues to follow me. I am not satisfied to merely dismiss him as being male and oblivious. I am not satisfied to give him more credit, either.
One moment in the novel really made me pause and ask these questions. There is a sea creature, a whale I guess, that is killed and distributed.
The men only discuss it through the lens of what they can get out of it – how many coats, etc. This is not unlike how they view women. What is the point of this scene? I think what captures most readers in this novel, something I haven’t mentioned yet and should, is the beautiful, gorgeous writing. And of course this is a translation, so also I would like to commend the translator.
The way he writes about nature is unforgettable, and while historical Argentinian landscape is not something I have any knowledge of, I feel as if I have visited at least three distinct regions of it just from reading this novel. Here is an example from the first third: The next morning, the fields and the domes of the forest were white, the sky looked like wet paper, and a marvelous silence stretched away in all directions.
Carts left black tracks in the street.
Ema, la cautiva
The children built snowmen and ran around yelling, crazy with joy. The character of the landscape changed entirely. The hunters, painted red and black, stood out in the still panoramas. The contemplation of the snows, of course, expanded leisure time. In the depths of the woods, fires were lit to warm groups of young people playing dice, or listening to the birds, or cuddling.
The song of the cardinal passed into the languages of the whetted wind and journeyed all the way to the horizon. I know Aira has a very large body of work, novels, and I think I want to try more to see how my opinion changes.
I know many of his novels are not historical at all, and appear to be more experimental in tone. I was disturbed by this novel. Sometimes that can be a good thing. I’m not sure whether it is in this case, though. Ema felt to me throughout, as I read, as a horrific embodiment of a male fantasy.
Ema is an ever-youthful, ever-desirable female who is subject to terrible violence along with her children being subject to it without her having much of a problem with it. She just passively makes the best of things.
Because she is so passive about being carried off with regularity cahtiva be raped some I was disturbed by this novel. Because she is so passive about being em off with cauiva to be raped some more, then she doesn’t really come across as a survivor who has agency, and her ultimate successes feel very pasted on, not believable. The interstitial cuts to a male point of acutiva throughout this novel all objectify Ema and focus on her sexual cauutiva, in ways where I’m simply not sure what to make of them–because the men raping her seem kind of reasonable and caring.
Cautjva messages I’m getting from the text are garbled because I’m not confident that Aira is in command of the subtext, that this woman is a victim of serial torture. His writing dovetails too neatly with misogyny and male fantasy for me to trust that he knows what he’s doing.
So one way to deal with this objectionable-ness is to separate my feeling about the book from any notion of author intent.
If I do that, as an exercise in alternative interpretation, the novel becomes a deliberate farce, I guess, in a Candide-like way, of a character who decides she is in the best of all possible worlds.
Or maybe the cautiv can be read as an indictment of men treating women like animals, or as a tribute to women’s strength to overcome horrible abuse. If I try to shoehorn any wma these interpretations into my own reaction to the novel, though, I’m still unable to resolve how such a completely passive character could ever survive and prosper. The novel reminded me of the D. Lawrence short story “The Woman Who Road Away,” a story of a woman who is as passive as Ema is about her fate, in a South American setting, but whose ultimate fate is a lot more believable, frankly, than Ema’s: View all 15 comments.
Ema, la cautiva by César Aira (3 star ratings)
Ema, “a delicate woman of indeterminate origins” as the back cover explains she is considered white, although she is the same color as the Indian women, with either African or Indian featuresis taken captive from somewhere and journeys across some part of wild Argentina in a wagon convoy with soldiers and other prisoners.
The trip is ghastly, the prisoners barely fed, seeming barely human, the food noxious. When one male prisoner is seen copulating with “a being of indefinite sex,” an office Ema, “a delicate woman of indeterminate origins” as the back cover explains she is considered white, although she is the same color as the Indian women, with either African or Indian featuresis taken captive from somewhere and journeys across some part of wild Argentina in a wagon convoy with soldiers and other prisoners.
When one male prisoner is seen copulating with “a being of indefinite sex,” an officer cuts off his genitals and leaves the man hanging over the side of the wagon by the chain attached to his leg. He passes out and bleeds to death, his body left there for three days as the stench circulates.
Ema, who has an infant son with her, copulates with another officer.
Ema, la Cautiva
When they arrive at emz fort which is their destination, she is given a husband, and also becomes a concubine, and also has dates in the woods with an Indian. She will have three more children rapidly over the course of the narrative. One night Indians attack the fort and its environs and Ema’s husband disappears. She is taken to another area where again she serves as a concubine. In and out of harems is Ema.
Does any of this bother her? It’s hard to say. Aira doesn’t say, and Ema’s emotions aren’t visible, except for a request she makes to be reunited with her lost son at that point just a toddlerwhich is granted. He gives her a loan and twenty thousand hectares and she begins the breeding, the descriptions of which are not pleasant semen extraction and fertilization and make even official visitors nauseated.
Maybe the most interesting aspect of the novel was the large number of animal species, both normal and extremely odd, that pop up. I didn’t make a list of emaa, but now I’m wishing I had as it would have distracted from the narrative’s tedium. The novel is befuddling. In their nonsensical way, the blurbs tend to agree: Aira’s Author’s Note both clarifies and muddles, as when he calls the novel a “historiola.
He explains that he once worked as a translator of gothic novels, “odysseys in which the female protagonists – sometimes English, sometimes Californian – transported the same old entanglements over hymenoptical oceans, oceans of passionate tea. Ema the Captive is a much earlier work and I was curious to compare the two. It takes place in 19th Century Argentina, out in the forests, plains, and mountains. The cautlva is extremely dreamlike and the writing beautifully lyrical although punctuated by episodes of shocking brutality.
It begins with a march of Spanish soldiers with a glimpse of a captive woman who later turns out to be Ema. Although she is dark-skinned, Ema is emz some reason regarded as white and therefore exotic amongst the other captives who are indigenous people.
The rest of the book recounts Ema’s life with the indigenous population.
With many books, I have the feeling half-way through that I have basically read the book and there are no surprises other than with thrillers cautivva mysteries where there is a punchline of sorts but the writing is still generally predictable. With Ema, I ls had no idea where the story was leading and what might happen. Apparently, Aira has said that he often writes without knowing where he is headed. I enjoyed the almost vertiginous feeling of endless possibilities.