Death and the Girl

Death and the Girl
Death and the Girl

Death and the Girl, Juan Carlos Onetti (translation: Maarten Steenmeijer), Kievenaar, 96 pp., 18 euros.

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Helga Hauser is pregnant. A European doctor indicated that another birth would mean her death, the local doctor Díaz Gray repeats that warning to her husband. He previously examined the woman ‘with rubber, reluctance and incomprehension’. Díaz Gray uses the stethoscope as a ‘ceremonial wizard’s instrument’ and writes out ‘recipes with an uncertain future’.

Death and the Girl by Juan Carlos Onetti is set in a fictional colony in Uruguay. Helga Hauser and her child indeed die during childbirth. But who is to blame? Her husband? A lover? The doctor? herself? The answer to that question remains unknown.

The storyline is quite difficult to unravel and in the dialogues it is not always clear who is speaking. Everything drowns in the lurid and illusionless atmosphere of the region. And of the inhabitants in their ‘unchanging existence in passivity (…)’ in the ‘daily Limbo and Purgatory’. Onetti, a celebrity from the heyday of South American literature, pours that desolation into blistering, completely idiosyncratic language. Stiff prose that is difficult to access for readers who want a crystal-clear story. The young publishing house Kievenaar made a bold choice with this sparkling and earth-dark novella. The latter is not a negative opinion, but rather a recommendation.

The article is in Dutch

Tags: Death Girl

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