The Shipyard Hardcover – 1 Jun 1968
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The Graham Greene of Uruguay... foreshadowing the work of Beckett and Camus (Sunday Telegraph ?The Onetti experience is a curious one: readers end up feeling that they understand life better after a stay in this ghostly, tantalising world, only to lose the wisdom they have gained after a few hours of release from the spell. The f the flavour inimitable? Guardian ?Onetti)
s voice and subject matter are his own... his work is always on a knife-edge... He is laconic, elegant, literary? London Review of Books ?This literary landmark is here delivered in a wonderful translation that retains all the bleakness and poetry of the antihero Larsen as he attempts to salvage the unsalvageable? Independent on Sunday 'Combining the alienation of Camus with the fatalism of Eeyore (Guardian ?Onetti?s poetic prose captures Larsen?s world, be it mad or confused and makes The Shipyard absorbing reading? Morning Star) --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
About the Author
Acknowledged as one of the great Latin American writers of the twentieth century, Juan Carlos Onetti was born in Montevideo, Uruguay in 1909. For many years he worked as a journalist in Buenos Aires. 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 prestigious Cervantes Prize in 1980. He lived in Madrid until his death in 1994. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
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"The Shipyard" is the miserable story of a defeat foretold, to paraphrase García-Márquez, whose style is so far away from that of Onetti. Larsen, a fiftysomething man, is back in the fictitious Uruguayan town of Santa María, after five years of exile imposed by the governor. He is workless and depressed, but nonetheless he has a plan: to become General Manager of the local shipyard, owned by one Jeremías Petrus, and marry this guy's dumb daughter. And so he proceeds with his plan, showing up everydat at work, where he only interacts with his two co-workers, two men with no history and no future who seem to dislike him but nevertheless share meals with him. There is really nothing to do at the shop, since the business has been bankrupt for a number of years. Petrus insists the shipyard will be back in business soon, but we readers know it will never happen.
Is this novel any good? I say yes. Of course, as a philosophical school Existentialism is condemned to failure, ... -if it's true that life has no possible meaning at all. The characters are unlikable, with the possible exception of Larsen himself in a strange fashion. There is really no plot and we all know right from the start that the novel can not have any happy ending. Where is then the strength of the book? Well, in that it is very well written. Onetti reveals himself as a truly good creator of moods, environments, images. He has the power of taking you right there and making you see, hear and smell the same as the characters. His prose is direct, straight and non-experimental, thank God, since his is no magical realism at all but pure, crude and rude realism. The interest of the reader is sustained by the curiosity to see what will become of poor but somehow brave Larsen. I would say that, as far as Existentialism was able to produce good writing, this is one of the best bets you have.
Best read in Spanish. The detailed use of words helps to better describe and understand the complete picture, the actions are relfected as a small part of what goes on.
Im no critic, just an interested reader and wish for all to take an interest in this book