Optic Nerve: A Novel by María Gainza
Optic Nerve: A Novel by María Gainza

Optic Nerve: A Novel by María Gainza

$ 25.00

"In this delightful autofiction—the first book by Gainza, an Argentine art critic, to appear in English—a woman delivers pithy assessments of world-class painters along with glimpses of her life, braiding the two into an illuminating whole." The New York Times Book Review, Editors' Choice
"Appealing and digressive . . . María’s store of information about painters and their lives can make reading the book feel, delightfully, like auditing a course . . . Consistently charms with its tight swirl of art history, personal reminiscence and aesthetic theories."  —John Williams, The New York Times Book Review
"Optic Nerve would be worth reading as an art history lesson alone; its descriptions of great paintings are phenomenal, as are its lives-of-the-artists anecdotes . . . With each chapter, María finds a new artist to love, and, in doing so, accesses a new part of herself. It's a pleasure to watch her do both." —Lily Meyer, NPR
On Sale April 9, 2019 • ISBN 9781948226165

View the reading group guide & discussion questions

The narrator of Optic Nerve is an Argentinian woman whose obsession is art. The story of her life is the story of the paintings, and painters, who matter to her. Her intimate, digressive voice guides us through a gallery of moments that have touched her. 

In these pages, El Greco visits the Sistine Chapel and is appalled by Michelangelo’s bodies. The mystery of Rothko’s refusal to finish murals for the Seagram Building in New York is blended with the story of a hospital in which a prostitute walks the halls while the narrator’s husband receives chemotherapy. Alfred de Dreux visits Géricault’s workshop; Gustave Courbet’s devilish seascapes incite viewers “to have sex, or to eat an apple”; Picasso organizes a cruel banquet in Rousseau’s honor . . . All of these fascinating episodes in art history interact with the narrator’s life in Buenos Aires—her family and work; her loves and losses; her infatuations and disappointments. The effect is of a character refracted by environment, composed by the canvases she studies. 

Seductive and capricious, Optic Nerve marks the English-language debut of a major Argentinian writer. It is a book that captures, like no other, the mysterious connections between a work of art and the person who perceives it.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

María Gainza was born in Buenos Aires, where she still resides. She has worked as a correspondent for The New York Times in Argentina, as well as for ARTnews. She has also been a contributor to Artforum, The Buenos Aires Review, and Radar, the cultural supplement from Argentine newspaper Página/12. She is coeditor of the collection Los Sentidos (The Senses) on Argentinean art, and in 2011 she published Textos elegidos (Selected Texts), a collection of her notes and essays on contemporary art. The Optic Nerve is her first work of fiction and her first book to be translated into English.

ABOUT THE TRANSLATOR:

Thomas Bunstead is a writer and translator based in East Sussex, England. He has translated some of the leading Spanish-language writers working today, including Eduardo Halfon, Yuri Herrera, Agustín Fernández Mallo, and Enrique Vila-Matas, and his own writing has appeared in publications such as Kill Author, The White Review, and The Times Literary Supplement. He is an editor at the translation journal In Other Words.