‘Welcome, Bob’ by Juan Carlos Onetti, trans. Katherine Silver

There’s no question that every day he’ll get older, farther away from when he was called Bob, from his blond hair hanging over his temples, from that smile and those sparkling eyes when he’d silently enter the room, murmuring a greeting or slightly moving his hand near his ear, and go sit down under the lamp near the piano with a book or simply motionless and separate, lost in thought, looking at us for an hour, his face expressionless, his fingers moving every once in a while to handle his cigarette or brush ash off the lapels of his light-colored suits.

Onetti had the strange quality of being inimitable and at the same time creating an entire school of writing,” Carlos Fuentes once said of this poet of time and decay. The Uruguayan master has enjoyed a minor revival of late in the U.S., thanks in part to the publication of his collected stories in English, A Dream Come True (Archipelago, 2019)No title could better describe this brick of a book which abounds with memorable stories, perhaps none more memorable than the hilarious and bitter ‘Welcome, Bob.’ Here an unnamed narrator—envious of the titular character’s youth, looks, vigor, and ideals—expresses excitement in welcoming him into the world of adulthood, disappointment, failure, and cynicism. 

First published in 1944. First published in English translation in 1963 in the Odyssey Review (translation by Hanna Ewards). The Silver translation first published in the Onetti collection A Dream Come True (2019, Archipelago). The only version online is a translation by Donald L. Shaw at the Short Story Project