Un Amor: A Novel
by Sara Mesa
Subtly in the vein of Dogville or Coetzee’s Disgrace, and invoking the works of Agota Kristof, Un Amor probes ideas of language, alienation, and community through the eyes of a woman who, when brought into conflict, finds herself on the potential brink of deeper awareness of herself and her place in the world.
On the heels of a cryptic mistake, Nat arrives in La Escapa, an arid rural village in Spain’s interior. She settles into a small, shabby house with cheap rent to begin work on her first literary translation, with a skittish and ill-tempered dog—a gift from the boorish landlord—her only company.
Burdened with assumptions about country life, Nat will enter into relationships with the handful of local inhabitants—her negligent landlord, Píter the hippie, the dementia-afflicted Roberta, the young city family who comes on weekends, the unsociable man they call “The German”—from whom she appears to receive a customary welcome.
Mutual misunderstanding and a persistent sense of alienation, however, thrum below the surface. And when conflicts arise over repairs to the house, Nat receives an offer and makes a crucial decision.
In prose as taut and oppressive as the atmosphere in La Escapa, Un Amor extends Mesa’s exploration of language and power, confronting readers with the limits of their own morality as tensions mount and the community’s most unexpected impulses emerge.
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 Online, Gulf Coast Magazine Online, The 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:
“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
“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