César Aira, “Picasso”

140811_r25317a-320A visitor to the Picasso Museum encounters a genie who offers two option: own a Picasso or be Picasso.

(from The New Yorker, August 11, 2014)

There are no records or reliable precedents on which to base a decision, because this sort of thing happens only in stories or jokes, so no one has ever really thought about it seriously; and in the stories there’s always a trick, otherwise it would be no fun and there would be no story. At some point, we’ve all secretly imagined this happening. I had it all worked out, but only for the classic “three wishes” scenario. The choice the genie had given me was so unexpected, and one of the options was so definitive, that I needed some time to weigh them up.

Nine times out of 10, genies are jerks and I knew that going in. But still I paused midway through reading to consider the conundrum. I would choose the painting. I won’t tell you what the narrator chose. (The story’s only a few pages, so almost everything’s a spoiler.) This is a fairly simple yarn, fast-paced and funny. It’s aware of the genie trope while sticking to it. My question is: Is the final twist the final twist, or is narrator less reliable than we know? I mean, can we trust somebody who sees a genie? Read it here.

(Personal challenge: 121 days/96 stories to go)

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