Onetti is a Uruguayan author and this is one of his earlier novels from 1964. Onetti, I think, is most famous for his story `A brief life', which I have also read but didn't rate at all.
The plot initially appears quite simple in that Barthe, the chemist, finally persuades the council to allow a brothel in the small town of Santa Maria. He had long ago enlisted Larsen, the Body Snatcher, to acquire the building and women. The main story is in fact overshadowed by the many side characters such as Jorge the youth, Julieta his dead (Frederico) brother's wife; Diaz Grey the Doctor; Marcos the taxi driver who objects to the brothel and tries to close it down; the priest Father Bergner (Marco's uncle); and Maria Bonita, Irene and Nelly the prostitutes. The depth to the story is achieved by having Julieta seducing Jorge (as a near replacement for Frederico) and Marcos (Julieta's brother) being in his youth responsible for a sexual commune. Larsen has a history with Maria.
The novel is interestingly constructed in that it has first person scenes between characters developing the intrigues and subtleties, but occasionally you get italiced text giving a first person internal perspective of the interaction.
Somehow this novel didn't quite work for me; I found it strangely difficult to follow in that you didn't immediately know who was narrating. I got a confused sense that some chapters were retrospective but later realised it was in fact simply a continuity. Some questions just weren't answered. Overall the sad strong ending didn't quite match the thrust of the narrative yet it's that that makes the reading worthwhile at the conclusion. I suspect that the author wanted the 'body snatcher' reference to be applicable to several characters. Overall not convinced.
- Hardcover: 308 pages
- Publisher: Quartet Books (1 October 1991)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 070432797X
- ISBN-13: 978-0704327979
- Product Dimensions: 22.2 x 3.1 x 17.1 cm
- Boxed-product Weight: 499 g
- Customer Reviews: 1 customer rating