cover image Goodbyes and Stories

Goodbyes and Stories

Juan Carlos Onetti. University of Texas Press, $0 (174pp) ISBN 978-0-292-72743-4

``Understanding was taking place within him, and he was not interested in knowing what it was that he understood,'' writes the Uruguayan Onetti of one of the characters in this collection. The words also approximate the reader's experience of these 10 tales of alienation and despair, in which much more is hinted at than explained. The stories' ambiguities stem, in part, from a perceived failing of language. The main character from ``The Image of Misfortune'' says of his brother's suicide, ``Words are pretty . . . when they point toward an explanation . . . all these words are useless . . . . He was my brother.'' But sometimes Onetti effects the desired epiphany. In ``A Dream Come True,'' a woman of questionable sanity commissions the dramatic staging of an ordinary dream; at the end we share the director's feeling of an unnameable revelation. The stories are relentlessly bleak, yet Onetti offers enough insights and glimmers of humanity to make the volume worthwhile. ( May )