What is so daring here? It’s not Sada’s depiction of the Madonna-whore complex, nor his take on the delusions of a Mexican macho — although both make for delicious burlesque. What’s new is the voice, and Sada’s glorious style. Katherine Silver pulls off the near-impossible feat of translating the cacophony of thoughts, interjections and slang rattling around Demetrio’s fevered brain, not to mention the continual asides of an arch narrator. Here is Demetrio attempting to write his first letter to Renata . . .
And Steve Kellman offers a noncommittal-but-positive review in the Dallas Morning News.
Almost Never, which was published in Spanish in 2008, is the first Sada work to be rendered into English. Still awaiting translation are eight other novels, five volumes of short fiction, and three collections of poetry. However, Almost Never — translated from Casi Nunca by Katherine Silver — recalls the Spanish Baroque more than the Latin American avant-garde. As in the plays of Lope de Vega, an intricate code of honor shapes his novel’s plot, and, as much as Luis de Góngora, Sada revels in the labyrinths of preposterously convoluted prose.
Indeed, baroque it is, although the baroque has also often been avant-garde in Latin America. Terra Nostra, anyone?
Hermano Cerdo also has a good review, from a few years ago when the novel with new in Spanish.
El anterior fragmento es una buena muestra del estilo de la novela. Una prosa muy bien cuidada pero de fácil lectura, que apenas hace notar la extrañeza de su forma y va siempre acompañada de un dejo de ingenuidad. Mientras que en Porque parece mentira… -que todavía es la obra maestra de Sada- nos encontrábamos con una prosa desbordante, medida y rimada, en Casi Nunca nos presenta no un espectáculo verbal sino un ejercicio de contención, de control sobre el estilo. Nos encontramos ante un autor en madurez, que ha conseguido un total control sobre su manejo del idioma y por lo mismo no teme incluir en su novela cosas como ésta: “Demetrio, tenme paciencia. Así somos las mujeres de este pueblo. Recuerda que sería incapaz de cambiarte por nadie. Si te pierdo ya no podré querer a ningún hombre”.
Sada speaks interestingly about his style in this interview.
José Manuel Prieto The first time I heard about Porque parece mentira, la verdad nunca se sabe (Because it seems to be a lie, the truth is never known), I learned about its internal rhythm, its infamous octosyllabic meter. Can you explain that a bit for readers? What effect are you seeking there?
Daniel Sada It is in no way a desire to be flashy or overly elaborate that leads me to use octosyllables, hendecasyllables, alexandrines, decasyllables or heptasyllables. I have a deep knowledge, from childhood, of the most elemental constructions of these metric forms, so characteristic of Spanish. In my primary school in Sacramento, Coahuila, Panchita Cabrera, a rural schoolteacher who was an ardent fan of the Spanish Golden Age (a type that no longer exists) taught us these phonetic techniques with one goal in mind: that we might fine-tune our ears in order to appreciate the expressive delicacy and virulence of our language. In fact, to be honest, it’s more difficult for me to write free prose, because I don’t have any technical (phonetic) resources on hand that might provide some support. Now, in the most recent novels I’ve written, Luces artificiales (Artificial lights) and Ritmo delta (Delta rhythm), and in an as-yet-unpublished novella titled La duración de los empeños simples (The Duration of simple endeavors), I’ve let go of meter, and for that very reason I’ve had to work much harder to write them. I should also say that for many years I buried myself in the study of Spanish rhetoric, partly in order to destroy and then rebuild, in a different way, the internal logic of the Spanish language (to rid it of aridity and give it more expressive color). The result, over the years, is not definitive. The process of transfiguration continues to expand, and that’s one of the reasons I keep on writing. I have plans for literary projects that, according to my calculations, will take up the next 20 years of my life. This whole agenda depends more on my health than on the health of my ideas.