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A Brief Life (1950)

Tekijä: Juan Carlos Onetti

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383866,467 (3.8)19
Written in 1950, A Brief Life is the first novel to feature Onetti's mythical town of Santa Mar'a. His protagonist Brausen eavesdrops on the conversation of his neighbours, a husband and wife, imagining their gestures, their expressions. Brausen lives with his wife, who has undergone major surgery after being diagnosed with breast cancer. To compensate for this physical void which stalls their caresses, Brausen imagines stories: of Santa Mar'a, and of a doctor named D'az Grey. But he not only wishes to imagine himself as someone else, he also seeks release from himself and from the world he knows. He leads many lives, some real and some fantastic, in order to experience a moment of psychic weightlessness - a ?brief life'.… (lisätietoja)
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Näyttää 1-5 (yhteensä 8) (seuraava | näytä kaikki)
La vida breve es la novela inaugural de Santa María, el territorio mítico de la narrativa onettiana. El protagonista de La vida breve, Brausen, escucha a través de una pared una conversación entre un hombre y una mujer. Imagina sus gestos, sus sentimientos. Brausen vive con su mujer, mutilada tras una complicada operación, y para compensar ese vacío físico que detendrá sus caricias, él imagina historias: la de Santa María, y la de un médico llamado Díaz Grey. Pero no solo desea imaginar que es otro, también quiere serlo.Carlos Fuentes dijo… «Las novelas y cuentos de Onetti son las piedras de fundación de nuestra modernidad.»
  MaEugenia | Aug 19, 2020 |
Onetti es verdaderamente bueno. Hasta creo que podría decir que es de los mejores prosistas latinoamericanos que he tenido la fortuna de leer. Desgraciadamente tuve que hacer esta lectura muy apresurada, me hubiera gustado más detenerme a saborear los tremendos párrafos del uruguayo. La forma que entreteje los diferentes planos de la narración y luego los mete unos dentro de otros es increíble, resolver los juegos de espejos con sus protagonistas resulta un rompecabezas delicioso.

Qué más decir. Mundo loco. ( )
  LeoOrozco | Feb 26, 2019 |
L'atalante, di Jean Vigo. Brividi analoghi.

Frasi da visualizzare per essere pienamente consci dell'incredibile Arte che Onetti regala al mondo, cosi' come in Vigo c'erano immagini da 'emotivizzare' per lo stesso motivo.
E' vero che Cortazar è più ampio, piu' 'artista' nei canoni consueti; tuttavia Onetti.

La densità delle frasi, a volte, è cosi' solida che il sentimento descritto, gli odori, gli scorci intravisti non sono descrizioni, ma diventano esperienza. E nonostante questà profondità 'materiale' nel testo sono frequentissimi i richiami all'aria, alla memoria di questa sugli oggetti, ad una atmosfera che riunisce i due mondi della trama in una unica, indistinta realta'.

Testo che è permeato da un profondo senso di religiosita', a mio avviso, pur essendo fortunatamente assenti accenni religiosi - anzi, ci sono come negazione. Anche le visioni, che si potrebbero scambiare quasi per 'deliranti', trovano invece spazio in un superamento dei confini della razionalità, che diventa Poesia dell'Apertura degli Occhi, ben oltre la semplice immaginazione. ( )
  bobparr | Dec 14, 2014 |
So, here in Canada a few weeks ago we had this guy called Jian Ghomeshi who was a public radio host and pillar of the liberal Canadian establishment that has been largely gutted over the last decade by the Harper government. He was popular and helping prop up our CBC and for that reason a lot of people had a lot invested in him emotionally. And then the CBC let him go and he put out this weird statement that it was because of his consensual sex practices and that a lot of people might find them disturbing but this is Canada and "the state has no place in the bedrooms of the nation" (-Pierre Trudeau). And a lot of people swallowed Jian's "sexual preference is a human right" schtick hook line and sinker, only there was this weird thing where he said he was being persecuted by a "jilted ex" and that seemed a bit defensive for our brave boy but before we could figure out what was up it all came out anyway--he was beating up women and sexually assaulting them, like, a lot of women, like, for years. And two of the many ageless lessons we learned again out of that were:

1) never trust the guy who jumps out in front of allegations to try to gain control of the narrative; and

2) even though we know that rape isn't something that only happens in back alleys, and that misogyny and power and lust for skin colonize our minds in awful ways and none of us ("us" meaning men. I speak here of my poor old reactionary gender with its vicious sense of entitlement and overdetermined sense of self and desperate need to be a hero and be strong and desired) none of us is blameless at least in the sense of skirting lines we didn't mean to skirt or being tempted to skirt lines we thankfully didn't end up skirting, even though all that, guys who get called out on this shit never ever own up that what they did was wrong. Jian--and this detail has sat with me queasily so skip to the next paragraph if you wanna--before he beat up the women would turn his teddy bear to face the wall and say "Big Ears Teddy shouldn't see this." How sick and sad? Their minds are riddled with walls for hiding and mirrors for fracturing and they have exactly as many selves as they need to.

And I mean, fuck Jian, but not to pick on Jian. This week it's Bill Cosby. The other day it was Jimmy Savile, Woody Allen, whoever man. And the thing of it is is that it's always the male abuser's voice that gets heard first and loudest and longest in these things. Cosby's voice drowned out his victims' for 45 years.

So let us move on to consider Juan Carlos Onetti's A Brief Life. This is an extraordinary book, written with passing craft (especially craft for crafting epigrammatic sentences), that interweaves and smear-blends and shell-games the real and unreal on you in that way that real childhood-streetlight-type readers-for-love I think with few exceptions crave. Onetti was not only brilliant but also a principled intellectual of that mid-twentieth-century Latin American imprisoned-under-the-dictatorship mould. He was our kinda guy. This book is about Brausen, a middle-aged, advertising copywriter who is cracking up in his bad romance and writing a psychosexual film script and pretending he's someone he's not when he visits the prostitute next door. Brausen is a twitchy, loss-of-vigour-fearing, afraid-of-the-body kind of guy. He has a bro who takes him to party with women he finds repugnant and then he goes home to other women he finds repugnant. He reminds me a bit of Alexander Theroux's Eugene Eyestones written by someone with an iota of insight who recognizes that Braustones is a budding psychotic.

I'm sorry, I am, to raise the spectre of magic realism in a review of a South American writer, but this book often has a grimy noirish irrealis thing that is intoxicating and draws you in; as my friend Rick Harsch said in our discussion thread, "sentences sinuous with despair." Like being kind of drunk at night in a place where you don't speak the language and someone you're not sure if you trust is leading you on from bodega to street corner and you don't know why. It opens up into a few glorious set pieces, like when a Dostoevskian bishop appears to give us a spirited sermon on "the weak desperate man," whose desperation is "pure," and the strong, impure desperate man. Basically, the one who gives in and lives in despair versus the one who suffers infinitely more because he cradles a flicker of hope, but there's more to it than that. The weak desperate man reaches out to friends, to Lethery of whatever easeful kind; "the strong one can laugh, can walk in the world without involving others in his desperation, because he knows he must not expect help from men or from his everyday life. He, without knowing it, is separated from his desperation; without realizing it, he awaits the moment when he will be able to look it in the eye and kill it or die." And again: "I applaud the courage of he who accepts each and every one of the laws of a game he did not invent and was not asked if he wants to play." This is the sort of existentialism that we need splashed in our face now and then.

Brausen needs it too, although because he loves and depends on women so abjectly he ill-uses it, mistakes for freedom the freedom to beat a woman to death. And this is the indigestible lump: the whole narrative is controlled by him and he gets extraordinary pseudo-authorial powers to do it and escape not only from punishment (that's just verisimilitude) but even from reality at the end, dancing off into a surreal adventure story in a Madame Pompadour mask with his bros. He speaks with multiple masterful male voices, strong enough even to knit together his obviously troubled psyche for most of the book, and the woman he kills as "Arce," and the woman whose breast is filleted to power the narrative by kicking off his madness as "Brausen," and the woman whose role is masturbatory fantasy for his creepy doctor persona "Díaz Grey" don't get a single real word in edgewise. They are plot points, their suffering is that of the comic-book "girlfriend in the freezer." And I salute Onetti's talent and acknowledge his right to write the book that is within him and not some other book, but that's why I don't love A Brief Life. I think if you're one of those people who has a deep love for Ghomeshi's music (I wouldn't subscribe to "deep love" myself, but I did have a soft spot for Moxy Früvous, his early nineties a capella group) or Manhattan or The Cosby Show, it might be time to let it go too, because, like, those guys kind of lost the right to tell stories. Onetti is writing from a different era and I will not go that far, but I don't think my discomfort with this book is the kind that really needs overcoming. ( )
9 ääni MeditationesMartini | Nov 22, 2014 |
I think it would be suitable to add a subtitle A Brief Life; and not a Happy One, as Onetti takes his readers deep into existential despair. I came away with the impression that I had read a book that reached deep into the mind of it's author. All the characters of the novel are projections, we know that some of them don't exist because Brausen (the main character in part one of the novel) tells us that he is writing a film script in which Dr Diaz Grey and Elena Sala are the principle characters, however in part two of the book Brausen appears to get subsumed into the story of Diaz Grey and Elena and the reader never gets to find out conclusively the identity of the first person narrator. I came to the conclusion that there are two major themes to this novel; one is the act of writing novels and authorial intentions and the other is the disintegration or descent into madness experienced by the protaganist (whoever he is): the only thing I am certain about is that it is a He. If all this sounds confusing then yes it is, but the confusion is expressed in such fine prose that I could live with the uncertainty. It is the sort of book you carry on reading in the hope that all will be revealed in the final pages, but you know deep down that this will not be the case.

The novel starts with the narrator alone in his apartment reflecting on his relationship with his partner Gertrudis, while listening to the sounds coming from the apartment next door. He is Brausen in the first part of the novel and is writing the film script about Dr Diaz Grey and his adventures with the mysterious Elena Sala in the imaginary town of Santa Maria. The narrator is soon projecting himself into the story of the events in his adjoining apartment and invents a character Arce who will form an abusive relationship with La Queca the prostitute living next door. There are therefore three major strands of the story; Brausens relationship with Gertrudis and his difficulties at work which he knows will lead to him being fired, the drama of Arce and La Queca that plays itself through the walls and then in the head of the narrator, and then the story of Diaz Grey, Elena Sala and their search for the English man. Parallels appear in the three story strands, time shifts come and go and the point of view slips from first person to third person and even into second person.

Great novels can start with a great first sentence that resounds throughout the reading of the book and Onetti's first sentence is a corker:

"Crazy World," the woman said once again, as if quoting, as if she were translating.

The idea of a crazy world is central to the story about La Queca, she imagines that she hears voices in her apartment, voices that drive her crazy, those voices are heard by Brausen next door, they are acknowledged by Arce and of course the reader is pretty certain that they are in the head of the narrator.

I, the bridge between Brausen and Arce, needed to be alone, understanding that isolation was essential in order to be born again, that simply being alone, without will or impatience, I would come to exist and recognise myself. Thrown across my bed and hearing La Queca's life with a wall between us, or next to her, horizontal and impassive under the monologues she unleashed and paraded through the room, I kept on waiting - indeed, I thought I had waited all my life without knowing it, and that if I had been conscious of this wait I would have shortened it, perhaps by years - and I preserved also the abandonment, the slightly feminine and shameful sensation that someone was providing for me. I ignored the objects and began to suspect that "they" were the ones mutilating the air of the apartment so as to harm me.

Onetti's characters certainly live in a world that is crazy and real at the same time. Much of the prose is weighed down by the reality of life in a 1950's Latin American country, that is not to say that it is the prose itself that is weighed down, because Onetti continually delights, surprises and entrances us with purple patches that make the reader reflect on thoughts that are original and pertinent. It is a book where the reader could pick any of the short chapters at random, read them in isolation and be bowled over by the excellence of the writing. Juan Carlos Onetti was born in Uruguay in 1909 and [A brief Life] was published in 1950 and translated into English in 1976. My version was translated by Hortense Carpentier in the "Extraordinary Classics" edition and I think the term extraordinary classic is most apt to describe this novel. It perhaps needs more than one reading and I may well come back to it. A strong 4 star read. ( )
5 ääni baswood | Nov 9, 2014 |
Näyttää 1-5 (yhteensä 8) (seuraava | näytä kaikki)
ei arvosteluja | lisää arvostelu

» Lisää muita tekijöitä (20 mahdollista)

Tekijän nimiRooliTekijän tyyppiKoskeeko teosta?Tila
Juan Carlos Onettiensisijainen tekijäkaikki painoksetlaskettu
Carpentier, HortenseKääntäjämuu tekijäeräät painoksetvahvistettu
直, 鼓Kääntäjämuu tekijäeräät painoksetvahvistettu
Meyer-Clason, CurtKääntäjämuu tekijäeräät painoksetvahvistettu
Sabarte Belacortu, MarioleinKääntäjämuu tekijäeräät painoksetvahvistettu
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Written in 1950, A Brief Life is the first novel to feature Onetti's mythical town of Santa Mar'a. His protagonist Brausen eavesdrops on the conversation of his neighbours, a husband and wife, imagining their gestures, their expressions. Brausen lives with his wife, who has undergone major surgery after being diagnosed with breast cancer. To compensate for this physical void which stalls their caresses, Brausen imagines stories: of Santa Mar'a, and of a doctor named D'az Grey. But he not only wishes to imagine himself as someone else, he also seeks release from himself and from the world he knows. He leads many lives, some real and some fantastic, in order to experience a moment of psychic weightlessness - a ?brief life'.

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