Cesar Aira, the child narrator of Cesar Aira’s whimsical and weird How I Became a Nun, claims she is the master of the hallucinatory style, a fact that immediately becomes clear when the confusion arises over whether the character is a girl like she describes herself or a boy like all the adult characters describe her. Be warned, this is not a mistranslation like many reviews seem to think, nor a convoluted autobiography despite the parallel of author and character’s name. Instead these are a winking ploy on Aira’s part to set up and then make you question all the assumptions through which we’re taught to perceive the world, a questioning most available to precocious children and authors like this one. Told as a series of surreal childhood memories, similar in style to Bruno Schulz or Felisberto Hernandez, but is perhaps more like Proust fictionalizing aspects of his recollections, the story begins with the narrator refusing to eat strawberry ice cream, but capitulating to her father’s authority she immediately suffers from cyanide poisoning, which brings on such hallucinations that the narrator is never able to obey anything again except the dictates of her own imagination. Discussing this novel with Horacio Castellanos Moya in a contemporary Latin American fiction class, we suspected that this issue of the childhood response to authority is central to the novel; each of the seemingly disparate chapters depicts an incident where the narrator rejects the adult and authoritarian views of reality, instead shaping her own through the troubling of self (and gender) identity, inverting roles of authority (whether parental, parochial, or penal), playing wild made up games, or flat out hallucinating. Like a Surrealist Charlie Brown strip, How I Became a Nun is short sweet and sinister, like death by ice cream might be (if Aira wasn’t making that one up too to thwart our views). A must read.