The Role of the Author in Juan Carlos Onetti and Juan José Saer

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis (monograph)


My dissertation studies the frequently mentioned but never fully explored affinities between the writings of Juan Carlos Onetti and Juan José Saer. From the very beginning of their writing careers, both authors relate writing and narrating to an elusive search for meaning—in life and stories. Consequently, the scene of storytelling is of the utmost importance; how, when, by and to whom, and indeed why a story is told is a crucial element of their fiction.

Onetti and Saer explore the scene of storytelling in their writings by focusing on the figure of the author. Drawing on theories concerned with the position of the author in fiction, I explore the ambiguous connections between protagonist, narrator, author, writer, and reader in six important texts: Onetti’s novella El pozo (1939) and the novels La vida breve (1950) and Los adioses (1954), and Saer’s short story “La mayor” (1976) as well as the novels Glosa (1986) and La pesquisa (1994). In all six texts an authorial figure is questioned, whether it is the narrator himself, a character’s oral narrative, or an author’s real and fictional deeds. What Onetti and Saer narrate, or even dramatize, is a to-and-fro movement, a constant loss and gain of authority, which can even be said to be inherent to the reading process in general.

As I conclude in the thesis, Onetti and Saer face modern negativity through writing; the existential void is filled with writing, but that same writing paradoxically exposes the void itself. Their struggles with writing itself lead to the creation of two of the most ambitious literary projects—the constant return, in both cases through a period of over forty years, to a series of characters in a geographically limited space—in Spanish-American literature. While critical studies have tended to consider Saer in the light of Jorge Luis Borges and the French nouveau roman, my dissertation opens up to the possibility of reading Saer’s work as a continuation of Onetti’s idiosyncratic contribution to River Plate letters.


External organisations
  • Harvard University
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Languages and Literature
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
Supervisors/Assistant supervisor
  • Sorensen, Diana, Supervisor, External person
Award date2009 May 30
Publication statusPublished - 2009
Publication categoryResearch
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographic note

Defence details Date: 2009-05-30 Time: 10:00 Place: Department of Romance Languages and Literatures, Harvard University External reviewer(s) Name: Epps, Bradley Title: Professor Affiliation: Department of Romance Languages and Literatures, Harvard University ---