12 March 2009

Review: "El Pozo - Los Adioses"

This book combines two different novels by Onetti.

The first is "El Pozo," which is a first-hand account from a man who has just turned forty years of age. Having turned forty he decides to write about his life, since that is the sort of thing a man should do at forty, "especially if he's lived an interesting life." The narrator turns out to be something of an existentialist character. He recounts something terrible he did when he was young, though he seems unable to grasp the gravity of his actions. He also relates his alienated wanderings around his city of residence. He feels a connection to only two people, a poet and a prostitute, but his attempts to communicate openly with them don't turn out how he expected. It's a brief but interesting sketch of a certain alienated personality.

"Los Adioses," the second story, is somewhat more complicated. The town of Santa Maria is a destination for people needing to convalesce. As the owner of the only market/bar in town, the narrator observes the arrival of a former basketball player who checks into the local hotel. Most of the narrator's knowledge of the basketballer is second hand. Even though the ex-basketballer comes often to the store to pick up beer and his mail, conversation with the narrator is virtually nonexistent. The player's stay brings a series of mysteries, such as the correspondence the player receives (consisting mainly in letters from two different people), why he decides to rent a nearby house, and the visitors he receives. Though the narrator tells us pretty much everything he sees and hears and all the gossip he is told, the mysteries tend to persist in this work of subtle power.

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