A Brief Life
Juan Carlos Onetti
Serpent’s Tail, Jan 1 2010, $14.95
In Santa Rose, Brausen has mixed feelings about being the caretaker of his wife who has been ill for a long time. On the one hand he misses their caresses and kisses while on the other he feels guilt for being increasingly non-understanding and empathetic towards her.
To mentally survive, he has become a listening voyeur as he listens through the wall to the married couple next door making love. He fantasizes that it is he kissing the breasts, scar and long legs of Gertrudis. Over time that becomes not been enough; so in between the neighbors’ sexual trysts, he fills the void by creating the adventures of Dr. Diaz Grey in the make believe town of Santa Maria. Tired, Brausen seeks emotional escape from his all too lonely “brief life”.
This is a reprint translation of a super 1950 tale that remains relevant even more so today than when the late great Uruguayan author Juan Carlos Onetti wrote it. The story line is filtered through the battered mind of Brausen who emotionally, mentally, and physically is feeling the toll of his wife’s illness and has turned to neighbors serendipitously and his imagination for escape from reality. Readers will appreciate this cautionary tale in which Mr. Onetti almost six decades ago warned society to not ignore the plight of a family caretaker who will feel immense stroke level pressure; as it is easy to sympathize with the sick person but not the seemingly healthy individual caring for the long term ill loved one.