12 hours ago 1 Jan El Entenado by Juan José Saer,, available at Book Depository with free delivery worldwide. BY JUAN JOSE SAER: PARATEXTUALITY. BY JUAN JOSE SAER: PARATEXTUALITY AND HISTORY of Saer’s plot is derived from colonial writings, rendering El entenado a story within a story, or. Juan José Saer (June 28, – June 11, ) was one of the most important Argentine – () () ISBN ; El entenado () ISBN – () ISBN ; The event translated by.

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When it comes to Latin American fiction, U. Classification by girth is acknowledged to have its defects, yet there is an alluring simplicity to it that comes to seem like common sense: The book exists in a state of permanent estrangement; it zigs subtly away from the whole array of zags that novelists have added to their arsenal over the past century and a half or more.

It pricks you into smartly guessing that it is told by an unreliable narrator, but then you realize that he is not unreliable enough to disbelieve him.

It is history looked at from the wrong end of a telescope, but the telescope is cloudy on both ends. It is hallucinatory, but everything is pretty much as it seems. It is constantly deconstructing all the things that need deconstruction—the self, history, morality, sexuality, civilization—but nothing falls apart enough.

The Witness by Juan Jose Saer | Quarterly Conversation

I hungered for the open sea. There he is treated with ingratiating deference, prodded with smiles but wholly untouched. The tribe eats the slaughtered Spaniards with terrifying and minutely depicted gusto, has a graphically and intimately illustrated orgy, and falls into a sullen sleep. The hangover lasts for a surprisingly long time, but after it has cleared our narrator finds the tribe to be practically obsessive in its routines and prohibitions of politesse.

However, each witness is also soon placed into a canoe and sent away shortly after the hangover period has ended though the boy remains. In the tenth year the tribe spots a second European expedition and immediately tumbles the narrator into a canoe and sets him down the river to be picked up.


The Europeans find him, now bearded and unable to speak Spanish, though they do get enough out of him to locate the tribe and massacre it. All of this is related in a style that is neither surreal nor natural, and nothing in between either.

The prose, translated marvelously by the great Margaret Jull Costa, is preternaturally smooth; there are no jutting words to snag too much meaning, no swirls of rhetoric to turn aside the current. Our narrator returns on their ship to Europe, is delivered to a friar-intellectual who teaches him a fleet of languages, generally re-civilizes the boy, and dies. Our narrator, never at home in the surprisingly cosmopolitan monastery, absconds and turns his heavily edited experiences into a play, traveling across Europe in one of the best sections of the book, performing for monarchs and the masses to enormous success.

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Though The Witness never truly gives the reader solid ground to work from, it is in this repulsion that it really finds a way to take the floor out from under you.

The narrator describes an odd habit he picks up while performing the spectacle of his captivity:.

Sometimes I would deliberately garble the meaning of my own speeches and deliver absurd and empty perorations in the hope of getting some entrenado from the audience. I wanted to force the audience to realize it was all a fraud, but my stratagems made not a jot of difference to their response. Something outside them, perhaps the sqer that preceded us or the legend behind it which had inspired the play, had convinced them beforehand that our performance would have a meaning and so, instantly and mechanically, they were enraptured.

This is the kind of passage that gives a reader of modernist or postmodernist fiction a pleasant jse of the hermeneutic shivers. More than a Cretan Paradox or a metafictional wink, though, this moment forces a reader to make decisions about how to read the novel, decisions that have been almost completely unnecessary up to this point because of the smoothness of the prose and the fluidity of the plot.

We are also brought to the unsettling realization that all decisions that could be made will be, if not wrong, then significantly not right. This realization nevertheless does not diminish enternxdo force with which Saer has pushed us to this moment of decision.


The Witness

The Witness has been read, predictably, as a sort of recapitulation of Heart of Darkness. Conrad too is obsessed with the moment of truth, the instant of decision that separates the men from the boys—and just as often, the reader from the character.

Conrad jolts us into judgment—is Jim a good man? What kind of man is Kurtz? Do they do the right thing? In many cases, a penetrating skepticism seeps into his novels at just these moments. And so it is with Saer:. However huge the fire the only truth it leaves is ashes. But there is in every life one decisive moment, which is, no doubt, also pure illusion, but which nonetheless gives us our definitive shape.

El entenado by Juan José Saer

Teaching me Latin, Greek, Hebrew and science was the least of it: For him they were tools which could be used to grasp and manipulate the incandescent world of the senses; for me, fascinated as I was by the contingent, it was like going out to hunt a beast that had already devoured me.

A similar feeling may attach to the reading of the novel; The Witness pulls you in more deeply the longer you spend jjose about its many provocations, reversals, intensities, and pleasures, and yet you will want to go out to meet it again and again. It is a pity it is not several hundred pages longer: That is not to say he upholds an Enlightenment narrative of the unstinted greatness of the enternadl of European ideas and arms over the globe, but that he operates on these terms—and all related josd finer and sharper instruments than punctuation marks.

Even as he is ensconced on his farm in