THE WINNERS by Julio Cortazar
Kirkus Star


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By Outward Bound out of Magic Mountain, this first novel, though derivative, has the suspense and aerial ruminations of a top-rate philosophical creepy. Properly eager and somewhat sceptical, the varied group of lottery winners chosen by the Argentine government for a surprise-destination cruise, embark on a dark misty night -- the young lovers, the crippled and elderly, the profligate, the cynic; a pliant teen-age boy; a weary divorcee and her son; a pair whose sexual aberrations bind them; a few noisier and less reflective; and the spectator, Persio, who, intent on finding meaning in the variety, sniffs out danger. In spite of the exhilarating effect of novelty, it becomes obvious to a few that an alien if not hostile power is overseeing the voyage. The aloof officers, the impassive crew, are not as ominous as the steel barricade that shuts off the stern, and a box of firearms found in a forbidden passageway. The officials cite typhoid in the crew as the cause of it all but rage and fear intensify at the time when each individual aboard seems to be reaching the extra dimension voyaging outward promised; the barricade is besieged; and a man dies, having glimpsed the emptiness of Paradise. Unable to contain humanity on vacation, the officials cancel the cruise, and the passengers, chastened and weary, return to routine, only a few still sensing the serpent beneath smooth waters. Hardly a tight ship but often exciting.

Publisher: Pantheon