One of the Best Books of 2022 by El País, El Cultural, El Mundo, La Vanguardia, ABC, El Periódico de España, El Diario and Esquire, among others.
Premio Cálamo Extraordinario 2022
The compelling X-ray of a family—its dormant wounds, vulnerabilities, contradictions, and weaknesses.
“There are no secrets in this family!” proclaims Damián, the father, at the start of this book. He is a man with fixed ideas and ideals who is obsessed with righteousness and pedagogy. But in reality, his house with no secrets is full of cracks, and the oppression that breathes within its walls will end up creating escape routes, clandestine codes, cover ups, pretenses, and lies. Made up by two girls, two boys, a mother, and a father, this family that appears to be normal—working class, full of good intentions—is the protagonist of a choral novel that spans several decades, whose stories are full of the desire for freedom and criticism for the pillars that have historically held up the institution of family, and that in large part still do hold it up: authoritarianism and obedience, shame and silence.
Sara Mesa once again proves that she has a clinical eye when it comes to undressing human behavior, detecting latent wounds, and portraying the contradictions and weaknesses that make us up in all their complexity and fragility. This book is a another twist in the screw of one of the most powerful literary universes in contemporary Spanish literature, and the confirmation of a talent that is continuously growing.
“Ever since she was a finalist for the Anagrama Prize with Cuatro por cuatro [Four by Four], Sara Mesa has been exploring a swamp-like moral territory in her literature, a kingdom of ambiguity where kindness and catastrophe, the acceptable and the reprehensible, complacency and threats all merge together and transform each other to put the reader in a state of active discomfort.” —Domingo Ródenas, El Periódico
“What is fascinating about Sara Mesa is her ability to map the human condition through losers, the abuse of power, oppressive and isolated places, the slow and continuous degradation. That’s why her novels are so interesting: because they are always rough, bitter, sincere, dark, unpleasant and slow.” —Ángeles López, La Razón
“Mesa’s writing reconfirms her precise literary qualities in every line.” —Manuel Hidalgo, El Mundo
“A very solid writer. Writing that is both serene and vibrant at the same time.” —Francisco Solano, El País
“Mesa’s writing is free of clichés, polished and precise.” —Martín Schifino, Letras Libres
“While you’re trapped in Sara Mesa’s web, you wonder how she does it, what the substance that glues you to her books is made of—that tar that stains you while you’re reading them and continues to do so later on, hours and days after you close the book.” —Carlos Zanón, El País
“A dominant father, a frustrated mother, and a magnificent author…her usual talent makes everyday environments seem sinister (…) the linear plot gives way to a tableau of perspectives and evocations; a sort of forensic exactness converges with the hesitancy of memory. A paradox that is difficult to achieve and uncomfortable and hypnotic to read. All in all: an incredible novel.” —Nadal Suau, El Español – El Cultural
“A desolate portrait of the relationships between parents and their three children, and the consequences of years of silence, secrets, and lies.” — Nuria Azancot, El Español – El Cultural
“Sara Mesa is one of the best writers of contemporary Spanish literature. And now that she has such a great list of published novels, it’s possible to start analyzing her narrative technique (…) Her tendency to maintain the tension through very calculated dosages of information.” —Álvaro Colomer, Ara
“Mesa knows how to thread together words, which is why I beg you do something authentic: read her. You won’t come out unscathed, but you’ll be grateful…The best part: this is a story constructed from multiple perspectives in order to map out an unfortunate family. The worst part: getting to the last page—you wouldn’t want to live in this book, but you do want to wrap yourself with its language.” —Ángeles López, La Razón
“A myriad of scenes makes up this family, which is every family—these lives, which are every life. (…) The touchstone of this book is contemporary unrest: for Mesa, to write is to see. (…) A necessary book.” —Ricardo Baixeras, El Periódico de España – Abril
“A novel that revolves around the pillars that hold up the traditional family—authoritarianism, obedience, shame, and silence—and the cracks that open in the walls of a house that is full of good intentions: affective relationships as displays of power, maladjustment when faced with social conventions, female sexuality and curiosity as threatening forces, the emancipatory ability of the margins, the relationships between children and adults. (…) In La familia, [Mesa] develops a style that, like in Un amor, has an odd cleanliness: it isn’t cold, but it is detached, and, without being analytical, it reaches the depths of things with overwhelming clarity. A style that traps and breaks down readers without them noticing, because it functions with incredible agility.” —Begoña Méndez, Publishers Weekly en Español
“She has written some of the murkiest stories in contemporary literature. (…) There’s something that exists across her work from the beginning that, aside from having to do with abuses of power, touches on the double lives of characters. Her characters pretend to lead normal lives while they hide another life that they are deeply ashamed of (…) There is, in a way, a veiled homage to the author of The Metamorphosis in La familia (…) and not only because of the impressionism of the prose and its oddness and disorientation, but because it tries to approach what was, it says, its great tragedy: the family.” Laura Fernández, El País – Babelia
“All of Mesa’s books are good—this, perhaps, is one of the best. Oppressive: the family as a well-intentioned prison that is full of unhappiness, a father that dominates through his virtue and cruelty, an autobiography that is hidden and reconsidered.” —Mariana Enríquez, Best Books of 2022, Clarín—Ñ
El País - Babelia
El Español - El Cultural
Herraldo de Aragón
el Periódico Mediterráneo
Les dones i els dies
TRANSLATION RIGHTS SALES
- Italy (La Nuova Frontiera)
- USA (Open Letter)
- France (Grasset)
- Germany (Wagenbach)
- Greece (Ikaros)
- Brazil (Autentica)
- Poland (Glowbook)
- Portugal (Relogio d'agua)
- Israel (Locus)
- Turkey (Sel Yayincilik)
Sara Mesa (Madrid, 1976) has lived in Seville since childhood. She has published the novels Un incendio invisible (Premio Málaga de Novela) and El trepanador de cerebros, and the story collections No es fácil ser verde and La sobriedad del galápago. With her poetry collection Este jilguero she won the Premio Nacional de Poesía Miguel Hernández en 2007. With Anagrama she has published Cuatro por cuatro: «An original novel full of talent» (Pablo Martínez Zarracina, Bilbao); «A stripped-down language, using brief and forceful syntax, which often focuses on a suggestion or a detail as expressive as it is devastating» (Ana Rodríguez Fischer, El País); «A very good novel» (Eva Muñoz, La Vanguardia); «A new narrative voice emerges which is destined to lead to important things in Spanish fiction of the XXIst Century» (Ángel Basanta, El Mundo); «A cold and naked novel, full of powerful images that make the reader uneasy as they draw him in» (Marta Sanz, El Confidencial); «A disquieting invitation to look with new eyes at isolated educational environments» (María Bengoa, El Correo Español); «What can I say about a story in which everything works?... A new author that will surprise us further in future» (Sergio Sancor, Libros y literatura); «Sara Mesa. Don’t forget that name. The finalist for the XXXth Premio Herralde de Novela. Read it. Share it. Talk about it. Open the book and begin. You won’t be able to put it down.» (Uxue, Un libro al día).
Photo: © Sonia Fraga