Ben Winch's Reviews > Body Snatcher

Body Snatcher by Juan Carlos Onetti
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Dec 16, 2011

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bookshelves: latin-american, uruguayan

I'm not sure I've grasped Onetti's purpose here, though it's clear he's a highly-skilled writer, capable of conjuring the lazy, seedy atmosphere of his fictional provincial Uruguayan backwater like no-one else. This is a slow book, and you really have to adjust your heart-rate to it if you're going to inhabit it comfortably. Its structure is bizarre and freeform, but never self-consciously so, and I think it's this aspect that actually makes me trust Onetti, because it's clear he's working from a place of deep instinct, following his pen where it takes him and pacing himself as he goes, as much out of a belief that the journey is the destination as from the intense concentration required of a tightrope walker. In Latin America all sorts of masters have sung his praises, but maybe his vision is too subtle to really take hold among English speakers. Or could it be simply that there's no 'magical realism' in evidence? Not a lot of swagger either. Just a virtuosic writer tuned constantly to near-visionary intensity on a painstaking trip to somewhere inscrutable. Maybe, yes, too inscrutable. Or maybe it's me and this jumbled living-in-a-box city lifestyle I'm leading. Either way, I'll definitely be reading more of Juan Carlos Onetti.
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