The amorous plot, where it is not purely libidinal, ambles its way through a comedy of provincial manners. Its length derives in part from the slowness with which Demetrio must court Renata under the mores of Sacramento, a town the narrator wryly calls “a world cultural center superior to, let us say, Luxembourg.” The material aspects of the place—the dust, the difficulty of bathing—are memorable, and the scenes of hardship in the more remote desert, where Demetrio’s lack of foresight strands him more than once, are among the best things in the book. The comedy of courtship also has well-drawn touches, as when Renata and her mother repeatedly postpone Demetrio’s visits for days at a time because they are “not presentable” at any given hour. For his part, Demetrio is mostly a passive prop in the marriage negotiations. His name combines one of Shakespeare’s comic lovers with the Spanish word for “deaf,” and his perceptions never extend far past his own lust, except to fasten on the substitute desire for material gain. Alongside the courtship comes his erratic, somewhat surprising transformation into a man of means, first by plying his trade of agronomist on ranches and then, more successfully, by sinking family money into a billiards hall. Mexico is industrializing—from time to time the narrator reminds us how backward are the roads, the plumbing, the communications services, compared to what is coming—and a young man with luck and modest resources may go far indeed.
Review of Daniel Sada’s Almost Never by Paul Kerschen. [via The Quarterly Conversation]