jeremy's Reviews > Almost Never

Almost Never by Daniel Sada
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's review
Sep 26, 12

it was amazing
bookshelves: fiction, translation
Read in September, 2012

perhaps like roberto bolaño before him, daniel sada may well be on his way to achieving posthumous fame amongst english-language readers of literary fiction in translation. almost never (casi nunca), the first of the late mexican writer's books to be translated into english, was awarded the prestigious herralde prize in 2008. sada's work has attracted both critical and popular acclaim, culminating in his receiving mexico's national prize for arts and sciences mere hours before he passed away last november. while apparently not even his best work (or even all that indicative of his supposedly immense literary talents), almost never is a rollicking, entertaining, and unrestrained novel.

sex-obsessed, sex-possessed, sex-frenzied, hyper-sexed demetrio sorto, almost never's young agronomist protagonist, is a salacious, libidinous character forever in pursuit of the old "in. out." set throughout mexico over a number of years in the late 1940s, sada's rousing novel is replete with lively, colorful characters. demetrio falls in love with two women: mireya, a sassy, sensual prostitute, and renata, a more proper, reserved young woman from a traditional family. despite his unyielding prurience, demetrio must decide for himself which of these women he can most likely build a future with. almost never may well feature one of the longest courtships to be found in modern fiction.

sada's novel takes aim at mexican machismo, yet does so with voluptuous humor and ample playfulness. almost never offers an entertaining enough tale, but it is sada's singular style that is the star of this story. staccato phrasings, frisky language, abundant alliteration, witty asides, and an often jocular narration meld to form a most unique technique. sada employs colons as liberally as the great saramago did commas, and the effect relays a charming eagerness or alacrity on the part of the narrator.

with another nine novels to his name, including the apparently-stunning masterpiece because it seems to be a lie, the truth is never known (porque parece mentira la verdad nunca se sabe), as well as several collections of short stories and poems, it is likely that english-speaking readers will have many sada translations to look forward to. with but a single work already rendered from the spanish (and described as his most accessible, at that), it is hard to form a true conception of this heralded mexican author. given the consistent acclaim from the likes of bolaño, carlos fuentes, and many others, however, as well as the prowess on display throughout almost never, it is of little wonder that daniel sada was regarded as one of the most important spanish-language writers of his generation.

separation. choice. the rest of the day mother and son exchanged nary a word. demetrio took a stroll around parras. he needed to feel alone in order to think things backward and forward. the bad part of that tree-lined town was the paucity of restaurants and cafés, and not a single spot that was even remotely depraved; rather, the tacit aspect of the tranquility: more sacred relief than you could shake a stick at: three small plazas with cute benches and well-scrubbed kiosks. streets made for the most primary of pleasures. sights and sounds like extra decorations that made (and make) the seeing and the feeling seem haggard. nevertheless, to stroll without faith, take a seat in some spot, and slowly slowly convince himself that this was not for him, that such a small-minded world would ultimately fill him with supreme disgust; it would be like consciously shrinking himself in order to quickly attain the philosophical outlook of an old geezer; it was to remain uncontaminated, at least not infected, by the unknown, or to cling to a few fixed ideas that had to be neutralized with neutral ingredients, never anything perturbing; it was the nonemancipation and the nonaudacity and, most of all, the senility of it all, of his soul, for example. perhaps a fettered spirit. a young spirit whose flight had reached no higher than a hummingbird's: to wit: to peck only at the known, at what was most obvious, and from there thoughts that zigzag toward the margins, to find therein more excitement: a desire that must not be, how could it be, and till when. demetrio experienced more excitement on his train ride to sacramento. he couldn't, however, escape the rigid circle he had drawn for himself, unintentionally, in which, somehow or other, he now found himself trapped.
trapped. never!

*translated from the spanish by katherine silver (castellanos moya, aira, martín adán)
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Comments (showing 1-5 of 5) (5 new)

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message 1: by Ryan (new)

Ryan Great review. My interest in this book though was flagging whenever I see that gruesome cover.

jeremy thanks, ryan. if you mean the inverted cross, don't let the cover dissuade you, as the story does not really contain any religious elements.

message 3: by Ryan (new)

Ryan No, not the cross. I mean, those dangling feet, what do they serve? The whole design is just uninspired.

jeremy oh, okay! i wasn't sure what you meant but did not want to offend. so yeah, the cover, other than some sort of shock factor i presume they were going for, really has nothing to do with anything. before reading the book, i thought the dangling feet were maybe... dead characters? but nope. you're right, uninspired it is. the original cover is far more interesting (and not a little cryptic):


message 5: by Ryan (new)

Ryan Way, way better cover from Anagrama.

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