Cover image for A dream come true : the collected stories of Juan Carlos Onetti
A dream come true : the collected stories of Juan Carlos Onetti
Uniform Title:
Short stories. English
1st Archipelago Books ed.
Physical Description:
x, 547 pages : map ; 20 cm.
Avenida de Mayo -- Diagonal -- Avenida de Mayo / The obstacle / The possible Baldi / The tragic end of Alfredo Plumet / The perfect crime / Convalescence / A dream come true / Masquerade / Welcome, Bob / A long tale / Ninth of July : Independence Day / Back to the South / Esbjerg by the sea / The house in the Sand / The album / The tale of the Rosenkavalier and the Pregnant Virgin from Lilliput / Most Dreaded Hell / The face of Disgrace / Jacob and the Other / As Sad as She / On the Thirty-First / The kidnapped Bride / Mat©Ưas the Telegraph Operator / The twins / Death and the Girl / Dogs will have their Day / Presencia / Friends / Soap / The cat / The marketplace / The piggy / Full Moon / Tomorrow will be Another Day / The tree / Montaigne / Ki no tsurayuki / The shotgun / She / The araucaria / At Three in the Morning / The imposter / Kisses / Her Hand / Back and Forth / Tu me dai la cosa me, io te do la cosa te / Cursed Springtime / Beachcomber / The visit / Saint Joseph.
Added Author:
Mario Vargas Llosa referred to Juan Carlos Onetti as 'one of the great modern writers, not only in Latin America.' A hero to the likes of Llosa and Gabriel García Márquez and a vital forbearer to magical realism, Onetti won the Cervantes Prize in 1980. A Dream Come True, beautifully translated by Katherine Silver, gathers Onetti's entire body of short fiction into English for the first time. Onetti's characters drift untethered, through strange places with unfamiliar people. A woman idles in a beachside hotel during a prolonged convalescence; a grandmother serves café-con-leche to schoolboys resembling her lost grandson. In these mysterious, dream-like stories, everything is gestured at, nothing plainly told. Each offers a brief glimpse into the life of one of Onetti's vast cast of unusual characters, intimately rendering their sorrows, fears, and joys. --
Language Note:
Translated from Spanish.


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A Dream Come True collects the complete stories of Juan Carlos Onetti, presenting his existentialist, complex, and ironic style over the course of his writing career. Onetti was praised by Latin America's greatest authors, and regarded as an inventor of a new form and school of writing.

Juan Carlos Onetti's A Dream Come True depicts a sharp, coherent, literary voice, encompassing Onetti's early stages of writing and his later texts. They span from a few pages in "Avenida de Mayo - Diagonal - Avenida de Mayo" to short novellas, like the celebrated detective story "The Face of Disgrace" and "Death and the Girl," an existential masterpiece that explores the complexity of violence and murder in the mythical town of Santa María. His stories create a world of writing which is both universal and highly local, mediating between philosophical characters and the quotidian melodrama of Uruguayan villages.

Author Notes

Juan Carlos Onetti was born in Montevideo, Uruguay, but began writing in Buenos Aires in the late 1930s. He published short stories in La Nación and in the magazine Sur , founded by Victoria Ocampo and Jorge Luis Borges. He then proceeded to write novels centered around the imaginary town of Santa María, which he described through complex, poetic, and existentialist prose in "Los Astilleros," "Juntacadáveres," and "La vida breve." Due to Argentina's military dictatorship, he was exiled to Spain in 1976, where he worked as a writer for El País and several Latin American newspapers. His lyrical stories and compact novels awarded him the Cervantes Prize in 1980 and the Rodó Prize in 1991. About the translator: Katherine Silver has translated more than thirty books, mostly of literature from the Americas. Her translations include works by María Sonia Cristoff, Julio Ramón Ribeyro, Julio Cortázar, Daniel Sada, Horacio Castellanos Moya, César Aira, and Pedro Lemebel. She has received numerous awards and prizes, including three National Endowment of the Arts translation fellowships. She was recently translator-in-residence at the University of Iowa, and is the former director of the Banff International Literary Translation Centre.

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

In this standout collection, the Uruguayan Onetti (The Shipyard), who died in 1994, masterly depicts the seedy disillusionment of characters in a South American backwater. The book is arranged chronologically, beginning with the short, trenchant tales of the 1930s and '40s, the best of which include "The Possible Baldi," "The Tragic End of Alfredo Plumet," and "A Dream Come True." The longer stories that follow are, like several of his novels, set in Santa Maria, an imaginary riverside town whose inhabitants--be they baronial planters, newspapermen, or drunkards--all seem baffled or defeated by the "incomprehensible ritual of living." Onetti writes, "We all lie, even before words," and many of the stories involve elaborate acts of self-deception and profound misinterpretations: a vagabond couple befriends a rich, elderly woman ("The Tale of Rosenkavalier and the Pregnant Virgin from Lilliput"); a newspaper writer's estranged wife sends him lewd photographs of her with other men ("Most Dreaded Hell"); a husband punishes his wife for a long-ago indiscretion by paving over her beloved garden ("As Sad as She"). In the preamble to one memorable story, "Matias the Telegraph Operator," Onetti's narrator explains that "bare facts don't matter at all. What matters is what they contain or carry, and then to discover what lies beyond that, and then beyond that, till we get to the deepest depths, which we will never reach." There is a hint of Conrad in these misty tales that plunge beyond "bare facts" and conjure up a world suffused with misanthropy and meditative irony. Readers will be bewitched. (Nov.)

Kirkus Review

Centrifugal stories, many set in an imaginary city, by the Uruguayan master storyteller.Ranked alongside Borges and Garca Mrquez, though far less well known, Onetti (1909-1994) exercised much influence over the development of magical realism. In this collection of his short works, the first in English, Onetti himself seems influenced by Poe by way of Baudelairebut then filtered through William Burroughs, or perhaps B. Traven. The inhabitants of his imagined Santa Mara, a port city much like his native Montevideo, are a strange bunch, many of them German and Italian immigrants who are nowhere at home. One, Baldi, has money in his pocket from a legal settlement and visions of an Academy of Bliss, "a project that would prove magnificent, with a bold glass edifice rising out of a garden city, full of bars, metal colonnades, orchestras playing next to golden beaches, and thousands of pink billboards." Alas, the streets are grittier than all that, and, seemingly trying to impress a woman with cash and blarney, he spins a tale that involves racist murder and illegal drugs, "spitting his words out like curses." Many of Onetti's characters harbor dreams large and small, most of them abandoned along the way, "ground down under the mindless, constant pressure of so many thousands of unavoidable feet." Some, unable to stand up to that pressure, end their lives, as with one 50-year-old woman who finds herself "a slave of the blackness she agreed to sink breathing in for the last time." Others are blithe in their ignorance or lose their grip, "shamelessly exhibiting an ancient and concealed madness." Onetti's stories are enigmatic and elegant, seldom extending more than a few pages; some seem to be only sketches for longer pieces, such as a one-pager in which a stranger plants a kiss on the forehead of a dead man, "leaving between the horizontality of the three wrinkles a small crimson smudge." All are strangeand mesmerizing.A welcome, overdue collection by a writer well deserving of his place in the Latin American canon. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.



Avenida de Mayo - Diagonal - Avenida de Mayo He crossed the avenue during a pause in the traffic and started walking down Calle Florida. A cold shiver made his shoulders tremble, and his resolve to be stronger than the adventuring air immediately removed his hands from the shelter of his pockets, increased the curve of his chest, and lifted his head - a divine search through the monotonous sky. He could withstand any temperature; he could live way down south, farther even than Ushuaia. His lips were sharpening with the same purpose intent that contracted his eyes and squared his jaw. First, he acquired an extravagant vision of the poles, without huts or penguins; below, white with two patches of yellow; and the sky above, a sky of fifteen minutes before rain. Then: Alaska - Jack London - thick furs obliterating the anatomies of bearded men, high boots transforming them into toy soldiers that could not be felled in spite of the blue smoke from the long handguns of the chief of the mounted police; instinctively they crouched down, the steam from their breath imitating a halo over their fur hats and filthy brown beards; Tongass bared its teeth along the shores of the Yukon; his gaze like a strong arm swept out to grab the trunks coursing down the river - foam again: Tongass is in Sitka - beautiful Sitka, like the name of a courtesan. On Rivadavia a car tried to stop him, but a spirited maneuver left it in the dust, along with its accomplice on a bicycle. He carried the car's two headlights, like easily won trophies, toward the desolate Alaskan horizon. In the middle of the block, he effortlessly avoided the warm air in the poster that was resting on Clark Gable's powerful shoulders and Crawford's hips; though he did have the urge to raise to his brow the roses that the star with the big eyes held up in the middle of her chest. Three nights or three months ago he had dreamed about a woman with white roses instead of eyes. But the memory of the dream was merely a flash of lightning to his reason; the memory quickly slipped away, with a flutter, like a sheet of paper just released from a printing press, which settles quietly under the others images that continue to fall. He installed the stolen headlights on the car in the sky that was copied from the Yukon, and the car's English brand made the dry air of the Nordic night resound with energetic What's, not shuttered away in a muffled room but exploding like gunshots into the cold blue between the giant pine trees, only to rise like rockets into the starry whiteness of the Great Craggy Mountains. When Brughtton knelt down, shielding the enormous bonfire with his body, and he, V.ctor Suaid, stood up next to the Coroner, ready to fire, a woman made her eyes shimmer, as well as a cross under the fur of her coat twinkle, so close that their elbows touched. On his mysterious back, Suaid's vest rose and fell like two to the pulse of the breathing, as he sought to embed in his brain the perfume of the woman and the woman herself, mixed with the dry cold of the street. Between the two opposing currents of pedestrians, the woman soon became a spot that rose and fell, from the shadows into the shop lights then back into the shadows. But the perfume remained with Suaid, gently and decisively expelling the landscape and the men; and from the shores of the Yukon only the snow remained, a strip of snow the width of the roadway. "The United States bought Alaska from Russia for seven million dollars." Years before, that fact would have moderated the fountain pen of the oldest Astin boy in geography class. Now it was nothing but a pretext for a new reverie. Excerpted from A Dream Come True: The Collected Stories of Juan Carlos Onetti by Juan Carlos Onetti All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.