cover image Nobody Nothing Never

Nobody Nothing Never

Juan Jose Saer. Serpent's Tail, $14.99 (224pp) ISBN 978-1-85242-273-8

Never has a title better summed up a book. This tedious novel about a couple of monotonous days in the lives of some very colorless characters is the second book by the Argentine-born Saer to be translated into English. Elisa and Cat are lovers who spend a weekend together at Cat's dilapidated beachfront house. Although their relationship is never explored, every insignificant event is related in painstaking detail. Pages are given over to descriptions of the white wine they drink, the sweat on their bodies, the wrinkles in Elisa's dress. Cat has been asked to take care of an acquaintance's horse because there's an equine killer on the loose. The chief of police (a famed torturer also named Horse) searches for the culprit; the reader retains hope--ultimately dashed--that something will actually happen. Instead, one is obliged to slog through the endless minutiae again and again, as every nonevent is retold from several points of view. (It takes a man nearly four pages to carry two bales of hay from the river to the house, and then this same, less-than-intriguing, episode is recounted twice more.) Still, Saer is not ungifted; the shifting points of view, the oppressive atmosphere he evokes and the sudden bursts of sensuality make one wish he had written a less ponderous book. (June)