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4.0 out of 5 stars "Like so many others before you, my friend, you've been had.", 10 April 2012
Mary Whipple (New England) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Almost Never (Paperback)
Much admired by both Roberto Bolano and Carlos Fuentes, Mexican author Daniel Sada has now been published in English for the first time by Graywolf Press. Almost Never, "a Rabelaisian tale of lust and longing," provides a bawdy and mildly satiric look at the whole concept of machismo as it exists in the mid-1940s in Mexico. Sada's main character, Demetrio Sordo, almost thirty when the novel opens in 1945, grew up in Parras, in northern Mexico, but he has recently been living in southern Mexico, working as an agronomist at a large ranch. Bored by the usual nightly "entertainments" of "dominoes in seedy dives," he finally concludes that "sex was the most obvious option." Taking a taxi to a local brothel, he meets the beautiful brunette Mireya, revealing his personal "charm" by introducing himself to her with "Hey, you, come on already, let's go."

Demetrio's eye-opening relationship with Mireya, graphically described, continues to become more and more adventuresome. The visits to her come to a temporary stop, however, when Demetrio receives a letter from his mother in Parras, asking him to come home at Christmas for a wedding. There he meets and falls instantly in love with the beautiful Renata, so closely tied to the local cult of virginity that when he mistakenly uses the pronoun "tu," she is shocked by his "familiarity." Upon his return to the Oaxaca area, Demetrio discovers that Mireya now wants more - marriage. With one woman who will do anything for him, and another woman who plays the ultimate "hard-to-get" role, Demetrio faces a rare set of challenges, determined to get what he wants from both.

In a slangy and breezy tone, the author develops his increasingly complicated plot, clearly having fun with his audience at Demetrio's expense and showing him to be boorish and selfish, manipulating everyone around him--all of his victims women. At the same time, the author clearly understands that Demetrio is as much a product of his time as Renata and Mireya are. As the novel's chronology progresses from 1945 through 1947, with the country's increasing industrialization, the migration of the rural population to the cities, and new opportunities for young men to make money in new kinds of jobs, Demetrio becomes emblematic of a whole generation of young men for whom the sky seems to be the limit.

Sada is a master of language, and though his characters are somewhat caricatured as he pokes fun at them, they are lively and full of personal quirks. Peripheral characters have stories which give depth to the author's revelations about life and love, and Renata's relationship with her domineering mother is a classic. Demetrio's dreams reveal that he does have a conscience, even when he commits boorish acts to extricate himself from complications he has never expected. His courtship of Renata, an exercise in frustration, has moments of high humor, and his agony at the slow pace of the relationship is matched, at times, by the reader's own impatience with the pace. The language and sexual imagery are crude, and readers will find it as vulgar as Demetrio is, something the author, no doubt, intended. Now that this novel has become Daniel Sada's first to be translated into English, he should soon become known here as a major "new" Mexican author. Mary Whipple
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Almost Never
Almost Never by Daniel Sada (Paperback - 10 April 2012)
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