The Shipyard

The Shipyard has been viewed as an ironic allegory reflecting the decay and breakdown of Uruguayan society. In the novel, an antihero named Larsen returns to Santa María to try to revive a useless and abandoned shipyard, ending his life in futility and unheroic defeat.

Set in the port city of Santa María, “The Shipyard” follows the story of a man named Larsen, a former shipyard worker who tries to revive a useless and abandoned shipyard. Bringing the shipyard back to life and winning the heart of the shipyard’s owner Petrus’s daughter is, for Larsen, the last opportunity to find his purpose in life. However, the attempt soon becomes a meticulous farse: there is nothing to do in a stagnant, ruined shipyard, nor is it possible to will oneself to love. Even though life precludes it, Larsen continues undaunted in his role, as though he doesn’t want to look at the reality of a world en route to extinction, or perhaps because pretending is the only possible way out of the madness.

This classic Latin American novel explores themes of isolation, disillusionment, and the search for meaning in life.

In The Shipyard, Onetti omes close to an almost perfect equilibrium, to an artistic economy that seems rather miraculous.”

Mario Benedetti

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