A Dream Come True: The Collected Stories of Juan Carlos Onetti

A Dream Come True: The Collected Stories of Juan Carlos Onetti


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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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781939810465
Publisher: Steerforth Press
Publication date: 11/05/2019
Pages: 560
Sales rank: 178,924
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 7.40(h) x 1.70(d)

About the Author

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.

Read an Excerpt


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, Víctor 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.

He made rise lines of mounted soldiers along both sides of the strips of snow. He, the Grand Duke Alexander Ivanovich, marched between them alongside Nicolas ii, cleaning the snow off his boots after every step with the edge of his fur-lined ulster.

The emperor swayed as he walked, like that Englishman, the assistant traffic manager at Central Station. His small boots shimmered to a martial beat, which was by now the only possible expression of his mobility.

"Stalin ended the drought in the Volga."

"Congratulations to the boatmen, Your Majesty!"

The tsar's gold eyetooth reassured him. Nothing mattered at all – energy, energy – and his pectoral muscles tensed under the curve of the cordons and the large cross, the ancient beard of Verchenko, the conspirator.

He stopped at Diagonal, where the Boston Building slumbered under the grey sky across the street from the parking lot.

Naturally, María Eugenia came to the foreground with the swirl of her white skirts.

Only once, years ago, had he seen her in white. So well disguised as a schoolgirl that the two simultaneous punches of her breasts against the fabric, colliding with the purity of the large black ribbon, turned the little girl into a mature, skeptical, and weary adult woman.

He was afraid. Anxiety began to rise in short bursts into his chest till it almost reached his throat. He lit a cigarette and leaned against a wall.

His legs were shackled with indifference and his attention drew down, like the sails on an anchored ship.

With the silence of the moviemakers of his childhood, the neon letters sailed along the tracks of the sign: YESTERDAY IN BASEL, MORE THAN TWO THOUSAND VICTIMS.

He turned his head in anger.

"Let them all blow up!"

He knew that María Eugenia was coming. He knew that he'd have to do something and his heart totally lost its rhythm. It annoyed him to have to lean into that thought; to know that, no matter how much his brain would stumble through labyrinths before stopping to rest, he would meet María Eugenia at a crossroads.

Nevertheless, he automatically made an attempt to escape: "For a cigarette ... I would go to the ends of the earth ..."

Twenty thousand posters proclaimed their plague upon the city. The man with perfect teeth and hair offered his red hand, the pack showing two cigarettes – ¼ and ¾ – like cannons on a destroyer taking aim at the boredom of the passersby.

"... to the ends of the earth."

María Eugenia was coming in her white dress. Before the surfaces of her face became features, between the slopes of black hair, he tried to stop the attack. Fear rumbled at the level of his tonsils.


Desperate, he climbed up to the neon letters that were popping, one by one, as gently as bubbles off the black wall: RACER MCCORMICK BREAKS WORLD LAND SPEED RECORD.

Hope gave him the strength to expel the smoke in one blow, joining the o of his mouth to the landscape.


The trail of smoke conveniently camouflaged the profile that had begun to take shape. Forming a triangle with the wall's rough skin and the square checkered ground, his body stayed put. The cigarette between his fingers announced a suicide with the slow thread of smoke.


On the gold sand, between loud shouts, Jack Ligett, the "manager," polished and repolished the shiny parts of the engine. The car, named after a bird of prey, looked like a gigantic black lobster, tirelessly holding the razorblade of the prow with its two extra legs.

The twisted organ pipes, port and starboard, each emitted twenty simultaneous blasts, which rose in slow billows. With the edge of the wheels at the same level as his ears, the race began. Each blast resonated triumphantly inside his skull and velocity was the space between two footprints, transformed into a viper dancing in his belly.

He looked at McCormick's face, dark skin stretched over thin bones. Under his leather helmet, behind his grotesque goggles, his eyes were hard with courage, and out of the smile thirsty for kilometers that just barely stretched his mouth, there filtered a brief order, condensed into a verb in the infinitive.

Suaid leaned over the pump and hit the car to push it forward. He hit it till the wind became a bellow and the wheels gently touched the ground, which quickly repelled them, as a roulette wheel does the marble ball. He hit until the viper in his belly ached, as thin and rigid as a needle.

But the image was forced, and the futility of this effort became evident, certain, without any possible subterfuge.

Escape was thwarted as if under a blast of water, and Suaid was left with his face half buried in the ground, his arms waving with the same movements as a semaphore.

"To hide myself ..."

But he slid under himself, as if the ground were a mirror and his last I the reflected image.

He looked at his veiled eyes and the damp earth in his left socket. The tip of his nose was squished, like those of children looking through shop windows, and his jaws champed at the hard, smooth sheet of anguish. His thin blond hair edged onto his forehead, and the patch of beard on his neck was turning violet.

He squeezed his eyes tightly shut and tried to submerge himself; but his nails slipped on the mirror. Vanquished, his body slackened, surrendered, alone, on the corner of Diagonal.

He was the center of a circle of serenity that continued to expand, wiping out buildings and people.

Then he saw himself, small and alone, in the middle of that infinite quietude that kept spreading. Gently, he remembered Franck, the last of the clay soldiers he would smash; in his memory, the doll, when viewed from afar, had only one leg and the blackened U of its mustache.

He looked at himself from many meters above, tenderly observing the familiar shape of his shoulders, the hollow of his neck, and his left ear flattened by his hat.

Slowly he unbuttoned his coat, pulled on the bottom of his vest, and again slipped the buttons into the slits of the buttonholes. Once he'd concluded this deliberate act, he became sad and serene, with María Eugenia stuck in his chest.

Now the scabs of indifference that protected his disquietude dropped away and the outside world began to reach him.

Without needing to think about it, he started back down Calle Florida. The street, devoid of reveries, had lost Tongass's teeth and the blond beard of His Imperial Majesty.

The brightness of the shop windows and the large lamps hanging from the street corners lent the narrow sidewalk an intimate atmosphere. He felt a yearning for a nineteenth-century salon, so refined that the men did not need to remove their hats.

He quickened his step, wanting to erase an indefinite feeling with touches of weakness and tenderness, which began to work its way in.

A machine gun on every side street could do away with all this riffraff. It was nightfall everywhere in the world.

In Puerta del Sol, on Regent Street, on Boulevard Montmartre, on Broadway, on Unter den Linden, in all the most crowded places in all the cities, the throngs pressing together, just like yesterday's and tomorrow's. Tomorrow! Suaid smiled with an air of mystery.

The machine guns were hidden on balconies, in newspaper stands, in flowerpots, on rooftops. They were all different sizes and all of them were clean, a ray of cold and joyous light on the polished barrels.

Owen was sprawled in an armchair, smoking. The window, under the angle formed by his legs, let in the blinking of the first neon signs, the muffled sounds of the city, growing dimmer, and the pallor of the sky.

Suaid, sitting next to his telegraph machine, stalked the passing of the seconds with a malignant smile. He awaited, more than the blasts of the machine guns, the decisive moment when Owen's facial muscles would tremble, revealing emotions through the corneas of his light eyes.

The Englishman kept smoking until a click of the clock announced that the small hammer was rising to strike the first blow in that series of seven, which would then be reproduced, unexpectedly and multitudinously, under the bells of all the skies in the Western World.

Owen rose and threw away his cigarette.


Suaid started walking, trembling with nervous happiness. Nobody on Calle Florida knew how oddly literary his feeling was. The tall women and the doorman at the Grand were equally oblivious to the polyfurcation Owen's ya took on in his brain. Because ya, or ja, could be either Spanish or German; and from here there arose unforeseen paths, paths where Owen's incomprehensible figure split into a thousand different shapes, many of them antagonistic.

Facing the traffic on the avenue, he wanted the machine guns to sing rapidly, amid balls of smoke, its rosary of lengthy stories.

But he couldn't make it happen, and he returned to his contemplation of Calle Florida.

He felt tired and calm, as if he had cried for a long time. Tamely, with a grateful smile for María Eugenia, he approached the window glass and the multicolored lights, which sheltered the street with their rhythmic pulse.


The Obstacle

He stopped gradually, fearing that the abrupt cessation of his footsteps would violently destabilize the ensemble of sounds mixed with the silence. Silence and shadows along a swath that ran from the muffled roar of the brightly lit factory to the four windows of the club, closed to no avail against the laughter and the clinking of glasses, and, at moments, the billiards shots. Silence and shadows peppered with the quivering of crickets on the ground and of stars in the lofty black sky.

It must have already been ten o'clock, so there was no danger. He turned right and entered the woods, treading carefully on the crunching leaves and carrying his pack on his back, his arms crossed over his chest. Dark and cold; but he knew the way by heart, and his half-open mouth warmed his chest, long warm brushstrokes slipping under his striped grey shirt.

He stopped again in front of the whitewashed gate. There, under the dangerous light of the streetlamps, began the sidewalk made of square bricks outlined in white that led to the administration building. If they see me, I'll say I couldn't sleep. They won't say anything. I just went out for a bit of fresh air. He lobbed one leg over the mesh, but had a thought that calmed him, mounted on top of the barbed wire. How changed everything was! Ten years ago ... He stopped thinking, but a quick sequence of memories came to him, clear and familiar by virtue of being always the same ... That summer morning they brought him to school ... The principal's office, the fat man looking at him affectionately from behind his glasses and patting him on the back.

"You look like a good boy, Brownie," he said and laughed, because he was so weak and small. "You're not going to run away, are you?"

Hew swung over his other leg and sat there. And I didn't run away. But when he retired and the German came. He smiled ...

When they brought the German ... He balanced on the barbed wire, watching the evening flee, the shelter of the reeds, the men bending over him, taking turns beating him.

Sons of –

He shuddered at the sound of his own voice and started walking quickly through the trees. Sons of bitches. And they were all the same. He tripped on a tree trunk and looked around, opening his eyes wide. The trench, the trunk of the eucalyptus tree, the lance on the old stockade ... No, it was farther on. He kept going. He was trying to remember when they'd installed the brick sidewalk and the streetlamps and the barbed wire. He was sure it was when they built the new administration building, but now he thought he'd seen the gym teacher watching them as they worked on the sidewalk. And since the teacher arrived long after they'd inaugurated the new building ... He smelled tobacco and stopped, his back pressed against a tree ... Yes, there they were. He saw their faces redden slightly next to the cigarettes. He gave two soft whistles, two short and one long. They answered, and he went straight to where the others were waiting.

"Hi, Brownie."


"You're just getting here?"

Barreiro was sitting on the ground, his hands clutching his knees. Slim was lying on his back on the grass, smoking, a cigarette planted between his lips. He glanced at them and then at the windows of the club. No way to know what time they'll tire of playing. Already on the ground, he kept thinking with delight about the room in the club and the voices rising through the floating blue smoke, the soft leather armchairs, and the enormous portrait over the fireplace. And the brick sidewalk and the string of lights hanging over the street weren't there when they built the director's house. That's for sure; it doesn't matter, he kept seeing the gym teacher, with his white canvas hat and his hands in his pockets, talking to the men building the sidewalk. He shrugged his shoulders and pulled his cap down over his eyes.

"Give me a cigarette."

Laboriously, Slim dug his hand into his pants pocket, held out the pack, then returned to his former position, the cigarette hanging out of one side of his mouth, his half-closed eyes looking straight up. Barreiro handed him a light.

"So, tonight's the night, eh?"

He lit it and took a strong drag, warming himself with the harsh smoke.

"Yeah. As soon as they turn off the lights in the club, we're off."

"Wouldn't it be better to go straight through the farm to the road?"

"No, we'll go along the stream."


Excerpted from "A Dream Come True"
by .
Copyright © 1993 Juan Carlos Onetti and the Heirs of Juan Carlos Onetti.
Excerpted by permission of archipelago books.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Avenida de Mayo – Diagonal – Avenida de Mayo, 7,
The Obstacle, 15,
The Possible Baldi, 31,
The Tragic End of Alfredo Plumet, 41,
The Perfect Crime, 49,
Convalescence, 55,
A Dream Come True, 61,
Masquerade, 79,
Welcome, Bob, 85,
A Long Tale, 95,
Ninth of July, Independence Day, 109,
Back to the South, 115,
Esbjerg By the Sea, 127,
The House in the Sand, 137,
The Album, 151,
The Tale of the Rosenkavalier,
and the Pregnant Virgin from Lilliput, 169,
Most Dreaded Hell, 197,
The Face of Disgrace, 215,
Jacob and the Other, 251,
As Sad As She, 299,
On the Thirty-First, 329,
The Kidnapped Bride, 337,
Matías the Telegraph Operator, 363,
The Twins, 379,
Death and the Girl, 387,
Dogs Will Have Their Day, 439,
Presencia, 453,
Friends, 463,
Soap, 469,
The Cat, 473,
The Marketplace, 477,
The Piggy, 479,
Full Moon, 483,
Tomorrow Will Be Another Day, 487,
The Tree, 491,
Montaigne, 495,
Ki no Tsurayuki, 505,
The Shotgun, 513,
She, 515,
The Araucaria, 519,
At Three in the Morning, 523,
The Imposter, 525,
Kisses, 527,
The Hand, 529,
Back and Forth, 531,
Tu me dai la cosa me, io te do la cosa te, 533,
Cursed Springtime, 537,
Beachcomber, 541,
The Visit, 545,
Saint Joseph, 547,

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