9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Urban Mythologies from Latin America,
By A Customer
This review is from: The Shipyard (Extraordinary Classics) (Paperback)
Anyone unfamiliar with the fictional world of Carlos Onetti can do no better than start here, with this melancholic story of urban alienation and defeat. As grim as this sounds, Onetti's genius translates the bare facts of existential despair into something transcendent and life enhancing. The central figure Larsen returns to the mysterious city on the River Plate to take up the offer of a job at a rusting Shipyard - a position suitably fitting for a distinguished gentlemen. Yet the reality of this exalted 'position' proves to be no more substantial than the existence of the fabled 'owner' of this failing enterprise. Larsen's odessy around the city and the varied characters he encounters fail to offer any enlightenment but begins to awaken in him an awareness of some intangible power and longing - a feeling of ultimate finitude and grace. His ostensible defeat is merely the ground or pretext for his spritual awakening which enables him to face his own mortality with a stoicism and courage that transcends the sordid reality of his life. This is a powerful and original novel of urban alienation that avoids the obvious comparison with Camus and Sartre because Onetti has absorbed much modern thought and translated this into a unique poetic language of great power and subtlety. Onetti is the urban novelist par excellence.