Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Let the wind speak - Juan Carlos Onetti

This book was written soon after his exile in Spain, by this Uruguay born author. This book looks into the periods life of Medina, as a fake (!) doctor , as a painter and as the chief of police. Bitterness, revenge and destruction is the underlying scheme of this novel. Being expelled from Santa Maria and living across the river at Lavanda, Medina has a love-hate relation with Santa Maria and everything associated with it. His long lost love, his numerous other lovers, the criminals and drug addicts are part of that world.

A life in poverty as a painter, living out of selling the unimpressive paintings of models and his girl friends to a corrupt and brutal chief of police shows the change in the character and attributes of Medina. The only thing that is common is the contempt for the place of Santa Maria and the eagerness to be the part of the happenings there while secretly wanting to see the down fall of its might.

Every relationship of Medina is a bit complex, or always under some wrap, not allowing the reader to get the full details of the character. His relationship with Freida , his long time lover , Gurisa his model and new girlfriend , the short stint with Junaina the model , prostitute and occasional lover of Frieda, Seoane , allegedly his son ( though we don't get the full picture of this side) and others are all written and described under a cloud of uncertainties.

"He only looked at Medina and the later understood and remembered that he had hated that man, without ever having seen him, since the very first day of his life, perhaps since even before he was born. But it wasn't the hatred of one person for another; it was like the hatred of an inescapable thing. It was the hatred of all sufferings - mingled like one wave with another, whether the sufferings were great or small- that had been inflicted on him by childhood." .... this summarises the general feel of this novel.

I am certain that this is not the best or most important work of this prolific writer. However, this gives me a glimpse to his style or writing. Moreover, it is important to know this author and his life before appreciating this novel , and this has some personal traits.

Juan Carlos Onetti was born in Montevideo of Uruguay. He never completed his secondary education and spent his first twenty years in his native Uruguay, working in odd jobs. He then moved to Buenos Aires, Argentina, where he worked as a journalist and began publishing short stories in the early 1930s. From 1946 to 1955 Onetti edited the Vea y Lea, in Buenos Aires. He was arrested and imprisoned in 1974 by the military dictators and was exiled to Spain. He lived in Madrid till his death in 1994 . Onetti, writer of many novels and short stories is one of the important figure in the Latin American Literature.

And what's more, I'm thinking of the wind now. It wont be long now. But who can guess which way the wind will blow ?

Let the Wind Speak

Translated by Helen Lane

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