The Miracle Cures of Dr. Aira

Aira, Cesar

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novella

Annotated by:
Miksanek, Tony
  • Date of entry: Jul-02-2013
  • Last revised: Jun-30-2013


The protagonist-physician, Dr. Aira, is an almost 50-year-old sleepwalker who resides in Buenos Aires. He's nearsighted, introspective, and paranoid. Dr. Aira's fame stems from his "miracle cures" - even though it's not clear that he's ever actually performed one. Dr. Aira does not believe in God.

His initial encounter with "paranormal medicine" occurred during childhood when dog owners in his town were led to believe that by submitting themselves to a lengthy set of penicillin injections their pets would be painlessly neutered. Acknowledging the absurdity of that situation, he remained intrigued by the "possibility of action from a distance" (p10) and the lure of magical healing.

Dr. Aira's nemesis is Dr. Actyn, Chief of Medicine who tries to ridicule Dr. Aira and debunk his claims. Dr. Actyn sets elaborate traps including one with a "dying" actor on an ambulance who Dr. Aira refuses to cure.

Dr. Aira obtains enough money to devote 10 months solely to writing his secrets and eventually self-publishing his knowledge in the form of pamphlets. His plan is interrupted by an urgent request to perform a miracle cure on a terminally-ill cancer patient. He consents and makes a house call to treat the wealthy man. After one hour of intense deliberation and theorizing, Dr. Aira's work is complete. Laughter erupts. The "patient" is a fake. It's his archenemy Dr. Actyn in disguise. Dr. Aira's failure is captured on camera.


This strange tale shows hints of Borges and Kafka. It is a surreal story of miracles, alternate realities, and the similarities between the professions of medicine and writing. Who is the real Dr. Aira - a true believer in the power of alternative medicine, a mentally ill physician, or a quack? And exactly what qualifies as a miracle - unexplained random occurrences, divine productions, or works of art? The novella's mention of "useless" miracles calls to mind Gabriel Garcia Marquez's examples of "consolation" miracles in his classic story of magic realism, "A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings" - spectacular, bizarre incidents that are hardly helpful. And just what is the miraculous cure of Dr. Aira? Well, it's easier to describe what it is not. The cure certainly does not restore good health to a sick individual. Nor does it seem likely to save a patient from death. Rather, the cure offers the possibility of a different reality or at least a brief diversion from disease and demise.


Translated by Katherine Silver.

The novella was originally published by Ediciones Simurg, Buenos Aires in 1998.

Primary Source

The Miracle Cures of Dr. Aira


New Directions

Place Published

New York



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