Onetti, Juan Carlos

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Onetti, Juan Carlos

Juan Carlos Onetti, 1909–94, Uruguayan novelist and short story writer, b. Montevideo. One of the great 20th-century Latin American novelists, Onetti wrote of the dissipation of modern urban society and the existential angst of his protagonists. Several of his works are set in the fictional coastal city of Santa Maria, and his fantastical characters often project an absurdist outlook on life. Onetti worked as a journalist beginning in the 1930s, in Montevideo and then (1943–55) in Buenos Aires. After returning to Montevideo, he became director of its municipal libraries (1957–75), and in the 1960s was editor of the left-wing journal Marcha. Jailed briefly in 1974 by the Uruguayan military government, he emigrated (1975) to Spain and became (1978) a Spanish citizen. His early novella The Pit (1939, tr. 1991) is often regarded as the first modern Latin-American novel and a precursor of magic realism. Onetti's novels include No Man's Land (1941, tr. 1994), A Brief Life (1950, tr. 1976), A Grave with No Name (1959, tr. 1992), The Shipyard (1961, tr. 1968, 1992), and Bodysnatcher (1964, tr. 1991). A selection of his short stories were translated into English as Goodbyes and Stories (1990).

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