Almost Never: A Novel

Almost Never: A Novel


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"Of my generation I most admire Daniel Sada, whose writing project seems to me the most daring." —Roberto Bolaño

This Rabelaisian tale of lust and longing in the drier precincts of postwar Mexico introduces one of Latin America's most admired writers to the English-speaking world.

Demetrio Sordo is an agronomist who passes his days in a dull but remunerative job at a ranch near Oaxaca. It is 1945, World War II has just ended, but those bloody events have had no impact on a country that is only on the cusp of industrializing. One day, more bored than usual, Demetrio visits a bordello in search of a libidinous solution to his malaise. There he begins an all-consuming and, all things considered, perfectly satisfying relationship with a prostitute named Mireya.

A letter from his mother interrupts Demetrio's debauched idyll: she asks him to return home to northern Mexico to accompany her to a wedding in a small town on the edge of the desert. Much to his mother's delight, he meets the beautiful and virginal Renata and quickly falls in love—a most proper kind of love.

Back in Oaxaca, Demetrio is torn, the poor cad. Naturally he tries to maintain both relationships, continuing to frolic with Mireya and beginning a chaste correspondence with Renata. But Mireya has problems of her own—boredom is not among them—and concocts a story that she hopes will help her escape from the bordello and compel Demetrio to marry her. Almost Never is a brilliant send-up of Latin American machismo that also evokes a Mexico on the verge of dramatic change.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781555976095
Publisher: Graywolf Press
Publication date: 04/10/2012
Pages: 320
Product dimensions: 5.56(w) x 8.02(h) x 1.01(d)

About the Author

Daniel Sada was born in Mexicali, Mexico, in 1953, and died on November 18, 2011, in Mexico City. Considered by many as the boldest and most innovative writer in Spanish of his generation, he has published eight volumes of short stories, nine novels, and at least three volumes of poetry. His works have been translated into English, German, French, Dutch, Finnish, Bulgarian, and Portuguese. He has been awarded numerous prizes, including the Herralde Prize for his novel Almost Never. Just hours before he died, he was awarded Mexico's most prestigious literary award, the National Prize for Arts and Sciences for Literature.

Read an Excerpt

Almost Never

By Daniel Sada, Katherine Silver

Graywolf Press

Copyright © 2008 Editorial Anagrama, S.A.
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-55597-609-5


Sex, as an apt pretext for breaking the monotony; motor-sex; anxiety-sex; the habit of sex, as any glut that can well become a burden; colossal, headlong, frenzied, ambiguous sex, as a game that baffles then enlightens then baffles again; pretense-sex, see-through-sex. Pleasure, in the end, as praise that goes against the grain of life lived. Conjectures cut short during a walk on a pale afternoon. Block after block, ascending, then descending. A strain in the step as well as the mind. The subject was one Demetrio Sordo, tall and thin, almost thirty, fond of the countryside where he plied his trade with a modicum of pleasure, but for recreation: what thrills? Nightly games of dominoes in seedy dives, and those strolls — few and quite dull — of a mere mile or two; or a cup of coffee in the evening, always solitary and perfectly pointless; or the penning of letters to known but already ghostly beings. Hence a rut, and — what should he do?: think, already anticipating certainties and doubts: lots of naysaying, and more reshuffling, all of which helped him find the spark he'd been lacking without taxing his brain on that overcast afternoon. Sex was the most obvious option, but the trick would be to do it every twenty-four hours. If only! A worthy disbursement, indeed. So that very night the agronomist went looking for a brothel. He went hesitantly. His mincing steps gave him away. He descended from the taxi and began walking as if on eggshells or as if the soles of his feet were being shredded by shards of glass. He found himself almost smack in the middle of the red-light district, which was not even remotely Edenic and, to make matters worse, was dimly illuminated. This was only the second time he'd visited such an inferno, so he didn't know where to go. Casting about, the first thing he saw was a row of scruffy-looking women in ironwood rocking chairs, each one next to the open door of her own mean hovel. A sordid spectacle stretching along the sidewalk he had started down. Those mincing steps quickly turned into long strides. A sensible sprint motivated by his wish to find a high-class brothel. He stopped and asked a passerby. The man willingly obliged. That one over there or the other farther on. Those are the costliest. Then came an exchange regarding the prostitutes he'd find in each (there were all kinds), though Demetrio preferred not to listen to more descriptions and instead took off apace without so much as a thank-you: and, there they were! one brothel named La Entretenida, and the other, Presunción: two yellow buildings like lumpy quadrangles that lent a touch of luster to the twilight: so — which would it be? A pleasant, somewhat extended quandary. He chose Presunción ... They charged an entrance fee, as if it were a museum, a bit of a stretch, that: then came a diffident handing over of cash. In exchange, the promise of instant happiness to ward off the gloom, for everything he'd so far fleetingly observed had made an impression, as did the grandeur of the suggestive orange-tinted salon with its many empty armchairs. There was piped-in music but no dance floor: ranchera music, exclusively, and ever so loud.

Was this lugubrious vista luxurious? The newcomer, a gawker, took a seat and continued to gawk. The welcome: gracious hospitality: a chubby man kept pointing to a chair: the kindness of a reiterated gesture. The very next instant the same man asked: What can I get you? and the still-potential client said: Wait a minute, wait. A bashful blush mixed with ardor: Demetrio and his quest in the midst of so much shadowed beauty: overwhelming, but also — titillating? Fortunately, he began to make distinctions: he saw a swarthy brunette with generous proportions, an eccentric vulgarity who smiled like no other. She, aware of being chosen, deliberately settled sumptuously into her armchair in such a way as to regale the gawker with a full view of her luscious legs. An effective ruse, for Demetrio called her over and, solicitous, velvet voiced — come on over here! — she approached slowly: her wavy mane swayed with added élan. She looked as if she were sashaying down a catwalk. Then, without further ado — have a seat! let's talk! Impatient insinuations necessarily followed by discreet (and somewhat playful) gropings. Modest maneuvers, high tension, a teetering on the edge. In other words, preludes to pleasure: two, yes two, seeking a robust merger, something above and beyond — perhaps — sexual commerce, then devolving into impertinent gawking, come hither and yon, now censorial, now welcoming; to this we'd have to add the shallow delights of the half-light where muteness reigned, making room for a play of features, bonding through lust: almost kissing, but — whack! the waiter's importunity, to which: Go away! I want sex not drinks. And Demetrio, turning to the brunette, said: Hey, listen, you, come on already, let's go to bed. How abrupt! He must have been really horny. And that was that, no dithering, almost at a run. Let's now summarize their time behind closed doors: it was raining thus imperative for them to seek shelter as soon as possible: a rush to undress and a rush to screw, as well as all the rest, to wit, long kisses with exceedingly motile tongues, as if in time with the cadence of their lower regions; above, an exchange of saliva or prolonged smearing. Hopefully there wouldn't be a sequence of distracting positions. He was spared: and: restrained initiative, hers more than his ... She offered her ardor, her extra, her unbridled pleasure, which led to almost maudlin caresses, as well as the ever-so-rhythmic hip action that swelled the man's eyes and made his eyebrows rise, peaking, now! at which point Demetrio exploded and as he did so exclaimed: That's it ... baby ... yes ... ! How do you do it ... Et cetera. And the sudden gush of sperm and a matchless orgasm with all the corresponding sensations. Satisfaction. Then hastily and carelessly dressing without even combing one's hair to one's liking in front of the mirror, not she, not he, not as one should, though the agronomist promised the lusty lass a second visit the following day, and the fee: as posted, but to the madam rather than the brunette: the madam being a squat woman with an equatorial waist who occupied a luxurious suite just off the main salon. He entered. A miniature hell. Danger. Inside, phew, pretentious scents. Shimmering purple armchairs where two bodyguards like reclining patriarchs conversed. Interruption: and: the bill. Payment. A fortune. One of Madam's eyes had a cloud in it. What can one say about that mysterious and imprecise gaze? We might add that nobody betrayed even the hint of a smile, and she, whose eyes switched back and forth like windshield wipers ... Madam gave Demetrio his change. Good-bye. An about-face and ... Let's see: no reason for him to almost run, even if he did have the impression that he was fleeing a world in flames.

The foregoing stands as a vast frame around what might appear to be perverse daubs of oily globs that puddle in spots to no purpose. Herein a riddle: what era are we in? The answer: 1945, the year the atomic bomb exploded and the Second World War ended. Modernities. But we are at the other end of the earth, in Oaxaca, a world cultural center, superior (let us say) to Tokyo. But we are also with Demetrio Sordo, the sexual Xagronomist, who one day among many began to do some bookkeeping. He had been visiting the Presunción brothel for more than a week. He had been making love to the brunette every day but Monday. Wonder of wonders: her name was Mireya, a name in suspended animation because in the brothel she was known as Bambi. Who knows why this nickname, for the wench wasn't delicate, like her namesake. Quite the contrary. For example, they could have called her Goddess Kali, because of her exuberance, or Goddess Isis, something like that, but — Bambi? Let's avoid getting waylaid by a superfluous obsession and focus on the bookkeeping. Demetrio began pouring numbers onto the pages of a lined notebook. His atomic pen slid awkwardly across the page. Nerves. In thirteen days a total of 104 pesos, even if they were well spent; counting pleasure by fives, plus the entrance fee, these by threes, an incomparable boon for an obsessive. On Monday, Mireya rested. She gave Demetrio fair warning and the chance to find another to hold in his arms, but only — as it turned out — that first Monday. The novelty was a slim, stylish woman, insipid ... Next: calculate his total income and subtract his expenses. The unexpected extra. Pleasure in the nude. Shared pleasure gains a firmer and firmer foothold. The dreadful was undergoing daily transformation: O amour! O silhouettism! Then, back to the numbers, a bit more than two hundred pesos. Plus all his other expenses. Also, minus Mondays, for he would no longer seek a sexual surrogate. He stood firm: no experimentation. It would be too sad, as it had been with that scrawny thing with a pretty face. Moreover, he should rest, he must. So, he would, and that was final: abstinence as relaxation: once a week: yes! otherwise he'd explode. Now comes a description of Demetrio's job: his workday went from seven in the morning till five in the afternoon, sometimes six, more infrequently seven. Once he'd fulfilled his obligations, he'd make his way to the lodging house of one Doña Rolanda, a frail, ultraconservative woman, where he rented her largest room. The daily routine: his return, his ennui sprinkled with drops of tolerance. Anyway, until exactly two weeks ago, automatism — what else! — during the week, for on Saturday and Sunday he indulged in what could be called "spiritual isolation," madness, or an Easter holiday in his rented room, where he had a radio: turn it on and surrender to the sounds of romantic music and stupid news broadcasts: countless hours in full-blown reveries. All of which now struck him as loathsome. But at night ...


The rigid hours for breakfast, lunch, and dinner were also loathsome. Key interludes, for in the dining room all sorts of subjects were raised, mostly by Rolanda, a woman who distilled bitterness. Unmarried, virgin, old, on top of a host of other afflictions. We can venture to guess what sorts of ideas made her shudder. Dark and decadent ones. Everything was fair game — the world and its inhabitants — except her far-distant God, the one to which she prayed. Imagine, then, the extent of her solitude, so evident. Abject boredom, even when praying, even when cooking ... Though she never stopped talking while carrying steaming dishes to the table or fulfilling her lodgers' petty requests. Her monologues brooked no interruptions ... Breakfast was served almost at dawn, as previously stated. Within the half hour eggs appeared, but sometimes only pastries. Never after that half hour, for the lodgers, four in all, had to leave for work. Moreover, let's figure that three left on the weekends. They returned to their villages in order to — or so they averred a hundred-odd times — enjoy the company of their wives and progeny. Not the agronomist, the obstinate bachelor, not till now. Though it seemed that his nearest of kin resided in the devil's lodgings. And evasive: Monday-through-Friday dinners, that is, conversation, a gathering of working people who often wound up extolling the virtues of their own jobs, Demetrio being the one with the highest salary, perhaps because he was the only semiprofessional among them: oh, the grand implicit advantage. If any of the others had been in business — alas! — they would have walked right out of that house in search of a better life, but they weren't, they were lowly wage earners, all somewhat younger than the agronomist; he, a roaring success! who earned two thousand pesos a month, so for him the pleasure of sex could be a fortuitous indulgence, but something was ruffling him: the aftertaste — how long could it go on? This notion brings us conveniently back to his bookkeeping, carried out during his Sunday-morning seclusion: Demetrio had to include the money he was saving monthly to buy a small house. A measly sum. After so many years of penny-pinching ... Penny-pinching, indeed, but the investment was growing in the bank: at what percentage? He had it in a fixed-term account, so he saw his totals only once a year. A significant sum. The first time — amazing! when he saw the number, and the second — wow! It really did make sense to save in one of those munificent institutions. He got the information twice. Twice, because Demetrio had spent two years and three months working as the administrator and principal agricultural expert for a ten-thousand-hectare orchard. "Private ranch" would be the more accurate appellation, but the owner refused to call it a ranch, that little word just didn't seem appropriate, for there were no cows, nor chickens nor goats, none of those animals that produce wealth (not even pigs). So, no. Instead: pears, apples, or whatever other ideas for planting and harvesting he had: a clownish contumacy: the agricultural, indeed! In any case, before continuing in this vein, it would do to insert this note: nowadays the subject of ranches is of only peripheral interest, because ranches have no truck with the urban or the violent (our landowner would never have dreamed of planting marijuana or poppies), so we offer this information very much as an aside, only to turn our full attention back to the sexual, for that's what really matters. Let's, however, quickly assert that Demetrio Sordo had nothing to do with marketing the harvest: where it should go: near or far — no, never that! nor the renting of trailers, none of that tedious stuff. On the other hand, he was responsible for the drainage ditches; yes, and for all things related to the purchase of fertilizers and amendments, as well as the best insecticides to prevent plagues and other evils; and the manual work: the making of furrows, ridges, ditches, rows, and even terraces; as well as the rest: breaking clods, hoeing, plowing, grading, mowing, sifting, and threshing, in concert, needless to say, with the peasantry. All of which he carried off with great aplomb, which led the landowner to give Demetrio full jurisdiction over the orchard. Trust. Respect. He visited twice a week. He wanted results and that's what he got. At a serene pace that others might find torturous. But let's leave this for now and turn to the recently sexual. Before, as we said, the agronomist would make his way directly to the lodging house after the day's work; he would arrive beat, to bathe, to rest: seclusion, a clean break, the radio, waiting for dinnertime. Monotony. But ever since he'd met Mireya he made his way straight to the brothel: by taxi: a dirty and desperate dash, only the second time, for by the third, alas, a bath in the orchard, or rather: washing by bucketfuls. As far as that went, we must consider the time it took to heat the water to an optimal temperature. On a stove in a kitchen — of which there were both — though the distance between the bath and the kitchen exceeded 150 feet and counting. Further delays, but that's what Demetrio did the third time and thereafter: quite a chore this coming and going with buckets: four in all: slow considering what preceded and followed: stealing an hour from the workday — indeed! because if the agronomist didn't make it to the brothel on time, Mireya might be occupied with another client, a circumstance he wished to avoid by all means. Those first few days he was, mercifully, spared. Another option was to go to that aforementioned hell and wash there: in her room, before the screw. He asked, fearful of eliciting a negative response ... No, on the contrary, Mireya said that as long as he did it quickly ... Well, to clean off the dust of the fields was not a matter of a simple dousing, you had to stand under the water for a long time and thoroughly soap yourself, a privilege for which, Demetrio told her, he would be willing to pay an additional fee. Money for Mireya, secretly — really? and she agreed with a smile.


Excerpted from Almost Never by Daniel Sada, Katherine Silver. Copyright © 2008 Editorial Anagrama, S.A.. Excerpted by permission of Graywolf Press.
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