Onetti thrived in shorter forms, and the first major English translation of his collected stories, A Dream Come True, brings the author’s talents into full view. The book...shows Onetti’s usual darkness brightened by a hint of tenderness for his characters, who are lost but still trying to find their way ... Aging and senescence are frequent themes, as they let Onetti explore the world of frustrated dreams. You’d think this would make the stories slow and meditative, but the effect is the opposite. Some of them have a special power of suspense; you’re never sure whether a person’s interior or exterior life will win out.
Many stories take macabre twists ... Here too is an eerie doppelgänger tale, 'The Twins,' about a pair of desperate Spanish prostitutes. In the collection’s title story, a woman contracts a theater company to stage the events of a dream she has had, to be viewed by her alone ... The strange, evanescent scene they perform curdles into a nightmare, and in the story’s hallucinatory effects one can see the seeds of the magical-realist style that would soon revolutionize fiction.
... Katherine Silver...has managed admirably to preserve the oddness of the original ... If Balzac unrealistically lent all his characters his own dynamism, Onetti’s seem as gloomy and torpid—or ornery—as he himself was ... Every once in a while a character is seized by the sheer ecstasy of being. Not by the beauty of the world or the thrill of intimacy, not by a moment of understanding or a sweet memory, but simply by knowing that one is present, that one exists ... Onetti reads a bit like Faulkner, his hero. Both writers invented a place and, in novel after novel, peopled it with the same characters ... Both Faulkner and Onetti get the metaphysical chills; they are equally astonished by the mere habit of being alive. Similarly, both writers’ characters are almost caricatures, woodcuts rather than watercolors. Onetti may have been a pessimist, but the very beauty and startling unpredictability of his prose attest to his devotion to something—possibly art alone ... Onetti’s style, which can create such lovely scenes of phantasmagoria, can be obscure in other ways. A logical list can degenerate into absurdity ... Or we read a highly detailed but surreal sentence ... The stories collected in this volume are sometimes slight but more often long and strikingly original, especially in the way time contracts and dilates and the plot veers off in unexpected directions. They are also more daring than the novels ... These stories indicate the broad trajectory of Onetti’s career. He was a clear-cut fabulist who turned into a cloudy mythmaker, but who stayed true to his primary vision of a provincial town in the winter rain. He is too difficult ever to be popular, but every writer will admire his distinctive tone and originality of invention.
The dense writing, grim if not macabre atmospheres, melancholy characters leading futile lives of misery and despair, and generally unsettling but often inexact endings necessitate an attentive if not subsequent reading ... The haunting yet engaging stories in this comprehensive collection will expose Onetti to a much broader readership than has heretofore existed.
Onetti’s stories are enigmatic and elegant, seldom extending more than a few pages; some seem to be only sketches for longer pieces ... All are strange—and mesmerizing ... A welcome, overdue collection by a writer well deserving of his place in the Latin American canon.
... [a[ standout collection ... Onetti masterly depicts the seedy disillusionment of characters in a South American backwater ... There is a hint of Conrad in these misty tales that plunge beyond 'bare facts' and conjure up a world suffused with misanthropy and meditative irony. Readers will be bewitched.