BODY SNATCHER by Juan Carlos Onetti


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 A somber novel, barely relieved by scattered elements of black humor, from noted Uruguayan writer Onetti, now makes its American debut. The story of two doomed dreamers--Larsen (``the Body Snatcher'') and the grieving widow Julita--is set in fictional Santa Mari†, a provincial backwater where boredom and self- righteousness are endemic. When the local council finally approves the establishment of a brothel, Larsen--a brooding and solitary man--believes that at last his dream of being the perfect pimp with the perfect brothel will come true. Meanwhile, the mourning Julita can go on living only by believing that young brother-in-law Jorge is her dead husband. The rest of the town watches as a house is bought; Larsen brings women from the city; the men of the town begin to call; and Julita becomes even crazier. Business is brisk, which enrages the townspeople, who try to enlist the local priest to head a crusade. The priest preaches that the whole town is sinful, but the locals prefer their own scapegoat. A group of young women also write detailed anonymous letters, and the outrage mounts. When the brothel finally closes, Larsen leaves, his dream destroyed. Then Julita, realizing that her husband is indeed dead, commits suicide. All of this is observed and commented on by an assortment of local cynics and idealists. The hypocrisy and intolerance of provincial life are marvelously evoked, as is the numbing tedium--but the themes and voices here never quite mesh. Too episodic really to engage.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1991
ISBN: 0-679-40178-4
Publisher: Pantheon
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 1991


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