By profession I am a soldier, a general in the glorious Roman army. As a playwright, I think of myself as a sublime amateur.
In Cesar Aira's new novel, Fulgentius, a sixty-seven-year-old imperial Roman general--"Rome's most illustrious and experienced"--is sent to pacify the remote province of Pannonia.He is a thoughtful, introspective person, a saturnine intellectual who greatly enjoys being on the march away from his loving family, and the sometimes deadly intrigues of Rome. Fulgentius is also a playwright (though of exactly one play) and in every city he pacifies, he stages a grand production of his farcical tragedy (written at the tender age of twelve) about a man who becomes a famous general only to be murdered "at the hands of shadowy foreigners." Curiously, what he had imagined as a child turns out to be the story of his life, almost. As the playwright-turned-general broods obsessively about his only work, the magnificent Lupine Legion--"a city in movement" of 6,000 men, an invincible corps of seasoned fighters wearing their signature wolfskin caps--kills, burns, pillages, and loots their way to victory. But what does victory mean?