The simulation of living

The ideology of consumption, the mediatization of everyday life and the advertising culture of “beauty and happiness” of the youth are the starting point of La Prueba (The Test) of César Aira. This short novel, published in 1992, is about Marcia, a virgin, shy and depressed teenager, who one day is questioned in the street by two punk girls who claim to be called Mao and Lenin and who pretend to be lesbians: “Would you like to fuck? “, they say. A little reluctantly, but full of curiosity, Marcia accompanies these girls to a fast food place. The punks try to seduce her and Marcia tries to understand those young people so different from them, going to what she knows: consumption of television programs and rock. The story take an unexpected turn when Mao and Lenin decide to give Marcia a definitive proof of her love. They go to a supermarket and, on behalf of the “Love Command” they steal the boxes, burn the establishment and they kill employees and consumers with hyperreal violence.

The extreme violence of punk girls is nothing more than the violence of consumption and the modernization of the nineties in Argentina. Indeed, punks attack consumers in a supermarket, a space par excellence of the consumer society. Likewise, the destruction is related to the “revolution of the spectacle and the image” that also took place in those years, in the context of deregulation of the media. However, if Marcia is the privileged recipient of the final scenes of La Prueba, it is because she represents the “official” show.

At the beginning of La Prueba we met Marcia doing her usual walk from school to her home. What she finds every time she repeats the walk is the periodic meeting of young people after school. From a position of relative exteriority, Marcia “collided with the load of floating signs … She didn’t have it, or she shouldn’t feel it, because it was part of the system, but all those youngs were wasting their time. It was the system they had to be happy. That was allowed, and Marcia captured it perfectly, although he could not participate.

Although Marcia cannot participate directly in the consumption she does experience and validate the plus of enjoyment of the beauty and happiness system consumption: from a relative distance she observes and classifies with the categories of a sociology of youth very close to the studies of market. As if there were products in a supermarket, Marcia sees “young people exhibiting” as “emblems of beauty or happiness”. Marcia’s qualifying impulse returns again and again during his conversation with the punks. When Mao tells Marcia that she and Lenin are not punks, full of bewilderment Marcia thinks: “They are feminists” … Repeatedly, Marcia tries to categorize Mao and Lenin in terms of consumption.

According to César Barros, in La Prueba, Marcia moves from the world of opinions, countenance and ideological determinations to the world of creative and subjective action proposed by the active nihilism of Mao and Lenin.

Finding the dimension of the act, Marcia recorded the path of appropriation of the commodified desire of the show.

At one point the narrator reflects theoretically: There is an old proverb that says: “If God does not exist, everything is allowed.” But the truth is that everything is never allowed, because there are laws of likelihood that survive the Creator. Even so, the second part of the proverb can work, that is, come true, in the hypothetical way, giving rise to a second proverb about the original model: “If everything is allowed …”. This new proverb has no second part. Indeed, if everything is allowed … what?… If everything is allowed … everything is transformed”.

The proliferation of media languages ​​in texts is an example of simulation practices. In the repetition, the family image is transformed into something else: the “love at first sight” and “the test of love” clichés in La Prueba turned the fictional melodrama into a class B movie filmed to the rhythm of the video clip. This practice of violence and simulation means updating the potential of the virtual image in the act.

In Aira’s narratives, the act of simulation appears as subversive regarding the truths and identities of the legitimate order. If a notion of politics can be thought of in the texts of Aira, this does not lie in the representation of an antagonistic or marginal subject with respect to the system. Rather, in the very act of repetition and simulation, the characters propose the possibility of thinking a new relationship with their own desire, one that, like subjectivity, never stabilizes but is always in excess.

The link between the virtual potential of the characters to reinvent themselves freely and the virtual power of a collective is very weak in César Aira’s narrative. However, the end of La Prueba will expose the aesthetic and political problem of the relationship with what remains unthinkable and did not show but that the figures of the postmodern spectacle repeat. By assuming the repetitions of the drill, punk girls dramatize a relationship with those other worlds and ways of life that have not yet been updated. From the repetition in the present the past is updated and the dimension of a future becomes possible.

Cesar Aira


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