A Dream Come True: The Collected Stories of Juan Carlos Onetti

Juan Carlos Onetti, trans. from the Spanish by Katherine Silver. Archipelago, $26 trade paper (560p) ISBN 978-1-939810-46-5
In this standout collection, the Uruguayan Onetti (The Shipyard), who died in 1994, masterly depicts the seedy disillusionment of characters in a South American backwater. The book is arranged chronologically, beginning with the short, trenchant tales of the 1930s and ’40s, the best of which include “The Possible Baldi,” “The Tragic End of Alfredo Plumet,” and “A Dream Come True.” The longer stories that follow are, like several of his novels, set in Santa Maria, an imaginary riverside town whose inhabitants—be they baronial planters, newspapermen, or drunkards—all seem baffled or defeated by the “incomprehensible ritual of living.” Onetti writes, “We all lie, even before words,” and many of the stories involve elaborate acts of self-deception and profound misinterpretations: a vagabond couple befriends a rich, elderly woman (“The Tale of Rosenkavalier and the Pregnant Virgin from Lilliput”); a newspaper writer’s estranged wife sends him lewd photographs of her with other men (“Most Dreaded Hell”); a husband punishes his wife for a long-ago indiscretion by paving over her beloved garden (“As Sad as She”). In the preamble to one memorable story, “Matias the Telegraph Operator,” Onetti’s narrator explains that “bare facts don’t matter at all. What matters is what they contain or carry, and then to discover what lies beyond that, and then beyond that, till we get to the deepest depths, which we will never reach.” There is a hint of Conrad in these misty tales that plunge beyond “bare facts” and conjure up a world suffused with misanthropy and meditative irony. Readers will be bewitched. (Nov.)
Reviewed on : 09/04/2019
Release date: 11/05/2019
Genre: Fiction
Book - 1 pages - 978-1-939810-47-2
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