Four by Four
by Sara Mesa
“With short, propulsive chapters, Sara Mesa creates an unforgettable gothic landscape, centered on the mysterious and menacing Wybrany College, that twists in ways that unsettle and thrill. In Four by Four, Mesa’s sentences are clear as glass, but when you look through you will be terrified by what you see.”—Laura van den Berg, author of The Third Hotel
Set entirely at Wybrany College—a school where the wealthy keep their kids safe from the chaos erupting in the cities—Four by Four is a novel of insinuation and gossip, in which the truth about Wybrany’s “program” is always palpable, but never explicit. The mysteries populating the novel open with the disappearance of one of the “special,” scholarship students. As the first part unfolds, it becomes clear that all is not well in Wybrany, and that something more sordid lurks beneath the surface.
In the second part—a self-indulgent, wry diary written by an imposter who has infiltrated the school as a substitute teacher—the eerie sense of what’s happening in this space removed from society, becomes more acute and potentially sinister.
An exploration of the relationship between the powerful and powerless—and the repetition of these patterns—Mesa’s "sophisticated nightmare" calls to mind great works of gothic literature (think Shirley Jackson) and social thrillers to create a unique, unsettling view of freedom and how a fear of the outside world can create monsters.
Translated from the Spanish by Katie Whittemore
About the Author:
Sara Mesa is the author of eight works of fiction, including Scar (winner of the Ojo Critico Prize), Four by Four (a finalist for the Herralde Prize), An Invisible Fire (winner of the Premio Málaga de Novela), and Cara de Pan (forthcoming from Open Letter). Her works have been translated into more than ten different languages, and has been widely praised for her concise, sharp writing style.
About the Translator:
Katie Whittemore is graduate of the University of NH (BA), Cambridge University (M.Phil), and Middlebury College (MA), and was a 2018 Bread Loaf Translators Conference participant. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Two Lines, The Arkansas International, The Common, Gulf Coast, Los Angeles Review, The Brooklyn Rail, and InTranslation. Current projects include novels by Spanish authors Sara Mesa, Javier Serena, Aliocha Coll, Aroa Moreno Durán, Nuria Labari, Katixa Agirre, and Juan Gómez Bárcena.
Praise for Sara Mesa:
“The atmospheric unraveling of the mystery will keep you turning the page; the ending will leave you stunned—Mesa’s Four by Four is a tautly written literary thriller that juxtaposes the innocence of children with the fetish of control; a social parable that warns against the silence of oppression and isolation through its disquieting, sparse prose.”—Kelsey Westenberg, Seminary Co-op
“Very few authors evoke a visceral reaction with prose in the way that Sara Mesa does. A master of tension building, Mesa constructs lurid phantasmagoric worlds that are equal parts mysterious and unnerving. Four by Four sounds an alarm on the dangers of power, privilege, and the self-delusions told in order to hide complicity. A work of high gothic art, Four by Four solidifies Mesa as one of the strongest female voices in contemporary Spanish literature.”—Cristina Rodriguez, Deep Vellum Books
“Stylistically, Four by Four’s narrative structure is both dazzling and dizzying, as its perfect pacing only enhances the metastasizing dread and dis-ease. . . . Mesa exposes the thin veneer of venerability to be hiding something menacing and unforgivable—and Four by Four lays it bare for all the world to see.”—Jeremy Garber, Powell’s Books
“Sara Mesa. Don’t forget that name. The finalist for the 30th 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
“Sara Mesa has brought a new narrative voice to the scene that is in a position to bear important fruit for the genre of the Spanish novel in the twenty-first century. Already in Four by Four an author has been discovered with the capacity for artistic integration of different stylistic registers within the same novel and with a real talent for representing reality. Four by Four is an account of the sinister relationships of power corrupted by fear and latent violence that feed this social parable of Kafkian roots.”—Ángel Basanta, El Mundo
“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