Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Juan Carlos Onetti

Jonathan Blitzer on Juan Carlos Onetti.
Born in 1909 in Montevideo, Uruguay, Onetti was one of the most idiosyncratic and virtuosic Latin American writers of the twentieth century. His readers in Spanish know this. In his later decades, after years of writing in relative obscurity, he earned a reputation as a quirky, cosmopolitan Modernist--a South American Faulkner who also enjoyed an aesthetic kinship with Borges and Céline (an unlikely pairing that only Onetti could provoke). In 1980 Onetti won the Premio Cervantes. He also became known as a writer's writer. Mario Vargas Llosa, Roberto Bolaño, Juan Rulfo, Julio Cortázar and Antonio Muñoz Molina are among his admirers, all of them better-known (and very different) masters who have acknowledged, always in intensely personal terms, the debt they owe Onetti. Bolaño, who attempted to interview Onetti in Mexico in 1975, once joked that he was himself a terrible writer by comparison. Vargas Llosa, for his part, said no other modern writer has grasped the human need for fiction "with more force or originality" than Onetti.
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