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Juan Carlos Onetti Borges (Montevideo, July 1, 1909 – Madrid, May 30, 1994) was a Uruguayan writer.
The Uruguayan writer Cristina Peri Rossi, considers that Onetti is “one of the few existentialists in the Spanish language”. Mario Vargas Llosa, who prepared an essay on Onetti, said in an interview with the AFP agency in May 2008 that “he is one of the great modern writers, and not only in Latin America.” “He has not obtained the recognition he deserves as one of the most original and personal authors, who introduced above all modernity in the world of narrative literature.” “His world is a rather pessimistic world, full of negativity, that does not reach a very large audience.” Previously Vargas Llosa had commented that Onetti “is a hugely original, coherent writer; his world is a universe of pessimism that surpasses thanks to literature ».
The formative years (1909 – 1941)
Juan Carlos Onetti was born in Montevideo, on July 1, 1909, at 6 in the morning, son of Carlos Onetti, customs official, descendant of Irish emigrants (original surname O’Nety), and Honoria Borges. , a descendant of a Brazilian aristocratic family, from Rio Grande do Sul. She had two brothers, one older than him, Raúl, and a younger sister, Raquel. Onetti remembered her childhood as a happy time, describing her parents as a very close and loving couple with their children.
In 1930, when she was only 20 years old, she married her cousin, María Amalia Onetti. In March of the same year the couple traveled to Buenos Aires, their new residence. On June 16, 1931, his first son was born: Jorge Onetti Onetti, also a writer, who died in 1998. In 1933, his first published short story appeared, Avenida de Mayo – Diagonal – Avenida de Mayo, in La Prensa, after winning a contest called by the newspaper, in which there were ten first places and 400 pesos for each winner, shortly after he separated from his wife and a year later, back in Montevideo, he marries again with María Julia Onetti, María’s sister Amalia Around that time he wrote the novel Time to embrace, which he published decades later, in 1974.
He continued to practice different jobs and write stories and articles that were published in various media in Buenos Aires and Montevideo until 1939, in which two important events took place: he published his first novel, El pozo (in Editorial Signo), which is considered the first to open the novel of creation or new novel in Latin America (written, according to the author’s testimony, in an afternoon during a weekend in which he ran out of tobacco) and is named secretary of the weekly March, for which he will write columns under the pseudonyms Grucho Marx and Periquito el Aguador. At that time he separated from his second wife. He also develops interest in the plastic arts, as reflected in his correspondence with his friend Julio E. Payró and his close relationship with Joaquín Torres García. He served as editorial secretary until 1941, when he left the weekly due to differences with Carlos Quijano and started working at the Reuters news agency. That year he obtained the second place, with his novel Tierra de nadie, in a contest that publishes Losada publishing house, which publishes it. The jury was composed by Guillermo de Torre, Norah Lange and Jorge Luis Borges and awarded the first place to the novel It is difficult to start living by Bernardo Verbitsky, and soon after, Onetti is sent as a correspondent to Buenos Aires, where he will remain until 1955.
The Years of Fullness (1942 – 1975)
He works as the editorial secretary of the magazines Vea and Lea and Momentum. In 1943 appears For tonight, whose original title was The dog will have his day. In 1945 he married a co-worker at Reuters, the Dutch Elizabeth Maria Pekelharing. On July 26, 1949, his daughter Isabel María (Litti) was born.
In 1950 he published La vida breve (in Editorial Sudamericana), a central novel in his work. In her, and by means of a complex game of metaficcionales planes, Onetti founds the fictitious city of Santa Maria, in which, from then on, would locate the majority of his novels and stories. Although in its first editions it did not have much success, it was soon recognized as one of the most innovative novels of its time, and even today it is considered one of the most important works in Spanish. Shortly after published the short novel Los adioses, which does not occur in Santa Maria, alludes to a recurring character in the work of Onetti, Dr. Diaz Gray.
At the end of 1955 he returned to Montevideo and started working at the newspaper Acción; he married for the fourth time the young Argentine of German descent Dorothea Muhr (Dolly), whom he had known in 1945 and who will be his definitive companion.
In 1959 he published the short novel Para un tuba sin nombre, and in 1961 El Astillero, another of his most celebrated novels, even considered by some to be his best novel.  In 1964, Julio Padre appears, a novel that Onetti He had started before El Astillero, but he interrupted to write the latter, which continues the story. Juntacadáveres was a finalist of the Rómulo Gallegos Prize in 1967, but he lost to Mario Vargas Llosa’s The Green House, also on a brothel theme, which led to Onetti joking that “his brothel in La casa verde was better than mine in Juntacadáveres . Mine did not have an orchestra. “These three novels (La vida breve, El astillero and Juntacadáveres) make up what was later called” Trilogía de Santa María “, although they are not the only works of the author set in the city. p>
In 1967 Onetti recorded an album for the Voz Viva series of Latin America, which contains the reading of fragments of the work in the author’s voice.In the same year the first edition of his Complete Stories appeared in Buenos Aires by the Centro Editor of Latin America, and in 1970, Aguilar de México publishes a first edition of its Complete Works, although it omits some stories of youth. In 1973 publishes the short novel Death and the girl. In 1974 he published a second edition of his Complete Stories and the short novel Time to embrace along with all his stories written and published between 1933 and 1950, as well as being a juror of the Annual Narrative Award organized by March, which was awarded to Nelson Marra for his story «The bodyguard». Since both the story and its author were censored the dictator Juan María Bordaberry, Onetti was arrested and locked in a psychiatric hospital, where he managed to leave after three months thanks to the intervention of the Spanish poet Felix Grande, then director of Hispano-American Notebooks , who collected signatures to achieve the release of the Uruguayan writer, and of the Spanish diplomat Juan Ignacio Tena Ybarra, director of the Institute of Hispanic Culture (where he had given a series of lectures in 1972). After a brief stay in Buenos Aires, he is invited again to Madrid by the International Institute of Ibero-American Literature to participate in a congress on the baroque. Onetti decides to settle permanently in the Spanish capital, where he will reside for almost twenty years.
The years of exile (1976 – 1994)
The Spanish years were characterized by less literary production but many prizes and participation in congresses, participations that were often affected by Onetti’s shyness, who managed to remain locked in the hotel room during the celebration of the First Congress International of Writers of Spanish Language in the city of Las Palmas, in Gran Canaria, event of which had been designated president, refusing to participate in any of the planned activities.
In 1979 he published Let’s Talk to the Wind, a novel that concludes the Santa María saga, and is dedicated to his friend Juan Ignacio Tena Ybarra, in gratitude for the efforts he undertook to allow his release. In addition to this novel, he continued writing articles, often dealing with the problems of Latin American exiles. In 1981 he was announced as the winner of the 1980 Cervantes Prize, receiving the most important award of his career, the same year that was proposed by the Pen Club as a candidate for the Nobel Prize for Literature, which he did not receive. When democracy returns to Uruguay in 1985, the president-elect, Julio María Sanguinetti, invites him to the installation ceremony of the new Government; the writer appreciates the invitation but decides to stay in Madrid.
In 1987 he published When then, his first novel after eight years. By then, Onetti led an increasingly hermit life: spent his last twelve years locked in his apartment on Avenida América, where he received the visit of readers and journalists, without practically leaving his bed, reading, smoking and drinking whiskey. In 1993, he published his latest book, the novel Cuando no no importe, in which the city of Santa María is resurrected for the last time.
He died on May 30, 1994 at age 84 in a clinic in Madrid, because of liver problems. Following his last will, his remains were cremated in the cemetery of La Almudena, in the Spanish capital.
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