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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction


Almost Never

Daniel Sada

general information | review summaries | our review | links | about the author

To purchase Almost Never

Title: Almost Never
Author: Daniel Sada
Genre: Novel
Written: 2008 (Eng. 2012)
Length: 330 pages
Original in: Spanish
Availability: Almost Never - US
Casi nunca - US
Almost Never - UK
Almost Never - Canada
Almost Never - India
Casi nunca - España
  • Spanish title: Casi nunca
  • Translated by Katherine Silver

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Our Assessment:

B+ : appealing voice (though a very drawn-out courtship)

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The NY Times Book Rev. A 22/4/2012 Rachel Nolan
Publishers Weekly . 13/2/2012 .
The Washington Post . 10/5/2012 Marie Arana

  From the Reviews:
  • "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." - Rachel Nolan, The New York Times Book Review

  • "Sada creates a fascinatingly eccentric cast of characters and manipulates them with skill." - Publishers Weekly

  • "For English-language readers, alas, we have but one volume, and it is this translation of Almost Never, a valiant effort by Graywolf Press to offer up Sada’s most accessible novel only months after the great man’s death. I say "valiant" because I admire Graywolf’s resolve to bring a brilliant Mexican writer to the attention of American readers. I say "effort" because the translation fails spectacularly to deliver anything like Sada’s wonderfully wacky prose. (...) In Almost Never, in other words, we see a writer in full maturity, a master in control of his craft. No need for polysyllabic meter. No need to gild the goose. Sad to say, but as accomplished a translator as Katherine Silver can be, her translation is not entirely faithful to the spirit of the sprightly original. Her English version tries too hard. It lumbers through Sada’s verbal gymnastics like a bad dancer, unable to mark the steps." - Marie Arana, The Washington Post

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Almost Never begins and ends immersed in sex. Its protagonist, Demetrio Sordo, is torn by sex: on the one hand there is Mireya, a whore at the local brothel that he is swept away by and whom he is soon visiting six days a week; on the other hand there is the ultra-prim and proper Renata, whom he begins to woo and who snares him in an extremely drawn-out -- and hands-off -- courtship.
       The novel is set in Mexico, and begins in 1945. Demetrio, not yet thirty, is an agronomist -- the "administrator and principal agricultural expert" at a huge orchard. It is on a trip to his mother's distant hometown that he meets Renata. He is drawn to her, even though she demands a certain distance and formality be kept -- but then Demetrio lives so far away that it would be difficult to rush things anyway.
       Renata, the youngest in a group of daughters, and the only one not yet married, wants to follow in her sisters' footsteps and escape from her mother, but she also takes her mother's lessons about men to heart. It's been drilled into her that they have to be teased along, made to suffer before any of their base desires are fulfilled. Indeed, even when Demetrio and Renata are already engaged she maintains a reserve:

     "I love you, Renata. Let me at least hug you."
     "No, not even that. Things have to be done properly."
     "But no one is watching us. Come on !"
     "Remember, I was well brought up, and it makes no difference whether anybody is watching us ... God is."
       For a while things go well enough in Demetrio double-life, between his constantly available whore and the woman he is wooing but only sees very rarely. But Mireya has her own plans for the future, too, and wants to escape the brothel, and when she sets her little plan in action it upsets Demetrio's world, too.
       Demetrio moves on -- to new jobs and opportunities -- but has some difficulty settling down, in no small part because Renata, that "obedient automaton", still insists on proceeding ever so slowly. So it continues:
     Wait, wait, wait, wait. Penitence. Repressive feints. Desire on the verge. Insidious respect, still. How much longer till ...? Pain below. Pain above. Pain -- where ?
       Yes, Almost Never is basically a long and somewhat circuitous courtship-novel -- lightened up by Sada's appealing tone, and by impulsive Demetrio's misadventures along the way. Typically:
     To avoid such a fix he found a different fix and injected it with a dose of mischief
       He makes money, he loses money, he tries to juggle his women -- and is juggled by them, too. Each of the characters -- including the various old ladies -- tries to get things their way and they all do their best in trying to manipulate others, but they pretty much all discover -- especially Mireya -- that even the best laid plans can't be counted on working out.
       Almost Never is a drawn-out tale in which not all that much happens, but Sada has an off-beat style that livens up the pace and helps hold the reader's interest. The backdrop of a changing society and nation in the post-war years also bolsters the narrative.
       Good if slightly limited fun, Almost Never is an inventive variation on tales of sex and desire and mores.

- M.A.Orthofer, 25 March 2012

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Almost Never: Reviews: Daniel Sada: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Mexican author Daniel Sada lived 1953 to 2011.

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© 2012 the complete review

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