A Brief Life

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Overview

First published in 1950, this is a brilliant novel by one of the greats of Latin American literature

“Onetti's novels ar ethe corner stones of our modernity.”—Carlos Fuentes

“The Graham Greene of Uruguay...foreshadowing the work of Beckett and Camus.”—Sunday Telegraph

“When you see that someone can write so well, it makes you want to believe that things can't be so bad in this world.”—Mario Vargas Llosa

“Latin American literature has few ...

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Overview

First published in 1950, this is a brilliant novel by one of the greats of Latin American literature

“Onetti's novels ar ethe corner stones of our modernity.”—Carlos Fuentes

“The Graham Greene of Uruguay...foreshadowing the work of Beckett and Camus.”—Sunday Telegraph

“When you see that someone can write so well, it makes you want to believe that things can't be so bad in this world.”—Mario Vargas Llosa

“Latin American literature has few secrets to divulge to the English-speaking world; but one of them is the Uruguayan novelist Juan Carlos Onetti.”—The Guardian (UK)

In A Brief Life, Juan Carlos Onetti's protagonist, Brausen, is caring for his wife after a long illness. To compensate for the physical void which temporarily stalls their caresses, Brausen eavesdrops on the conversation of his neighbors, a husband and wife, imagining their gestures and their expressions.

But he not only wishes to imagine himself as someone else, he also seeks release from the world he knows. He leads many lives, some real and some fantastic, in order to experience a moment of psychic weightlessness—a “brief life.”

Juan Carlos Onetti is acknowledged as one of the great Latin American writers of the twentieth century. His best-known work is The Shipyard. He died in 1994.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Uruguayan writer Juan Maria Brausen interprets his name as three words mechanically strung together by his father so that the trivialities he has inherited would be repeated after him. Brausen's wife, Gertrudis, has undergone a mastectomy, and although he misses making love to her, he is incapable of empathy regarding her new condition. In fact, the sight of her scar so repulses him that he begins to flit between reality and fantasy. Through paper-thin walls, he eavesdrops on his neighbors' sexual trysts, mentally inserting himself in their world and imagining a new character, an enema-giving Dr. Diaz Grey, in the make-believe town of Santa Maria. Scenes are re-created endlessly in the hopes of getting them just right for the film script Brausen is destined never to finish. VERDICT Although plot-centered readers may become impatient with Onetti's pre-Boom classic, others will delight in its variations and nuances, its wisdom and analyses, and its flavors reminiscent of Faulkner and savor it as an early harbinger (1950) of Latin American magic realism.—Jack Shreve, Allegany Coll. of Maryland, Cumberland
Library Journal
This novel by the Argentine author of the acclaimed The Shipyard concerns Brausen, who seeks to escape the dreary existence of his everyday life by channeling his consciousness into other people--some real, some imagined. A solid title for public and academic foreign literature collections.
Library Journal
This novel by the Argentine author of the acclaimed The Shipyard concerns Brausen, who seeks to escape the dreary existence of his everyday life by channeling his consciousness into other people--some real, some imagined. A solid title for public and academic foreign literature collections.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781852429782
  • Publisher: Serpent's Tail Publishing Ltd
  • Publication date: 1/1/2010
  • Edition description: Translatio
  • Pages: 304
  • Product dimensions: 5.10 (w) x 7.70 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Acknowledged as one of the great Latin American writers of the twentieth century, Onetti was born in Montevideo, Uruguay in 1909. His novels include The Well, No Man's Life, and his best known work, The Shipyard. He was awarded Uruguay's national literature prize in 1963 and Spain's Cervantes Prize in 1980.

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Read an Excerpt

People believe they are condemned to one life until death. But they are only condemned to one soul, to one identity. One can live many times, many lives, shorter or longer.
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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 1, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    remains relevant

    In Santa Rose, Brausen has mixed feelings about being the caretaker of his wife who has been ill for a long time. On the one hand he misses their caresses and kisses while on the other he feels guilt for being increasingly non-understanding and empathetic towards her.

    To mentally survive, he has become a listening voyeur as he listens through the wall to the married couple next door making love. He fantasizes that it is he kissing the breasts, scar and long legs of Gertrudis. Over time that becomes not been enough; so in between the neighbors' sexual trysts, he fills the void by creating the adventures of Dr. Diaz Grey in the make believe town of Santa Maria. Tired, Brausen seeks emotional escape from his all too lonely "brief life".

    This is a reprint translation of a super 1950 tale that remains relevant even more so today than when the late great Uruguayan author Juan Carlos Onetti wrote it. The story line is filtered through the battered mind of Brausen who emotionally, mentally, and physically is feeling the toll of his wife's illness and has turned to neighbors serendipitously and his imagination for escape from reality. Readers will appreciate this cautionary tale in which Mr. Onetti almost six decades ago warned society to not ignore the plight of a family caretaker who will feel immense stroke level pressure; as it is easy to sympathize with the sick person but not the seemingly healthy individual caring for the long term ill loved one.

    Harriet Klausner

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