July 23, 2021 | Rome, Italy

One Out of Two

By | 2018-03-21T19:47:15+01:00 December 6th, 2015|Recent Reviews|

By Daniel Sada, translated from the Spanish by Katherine Silver

Graywolf Press, 2015 (2002). 100 pages.

Seamstresses Constitución and Gloria Gamal are spinster identical twins in the small Mexican city of Ocampo. Orphaned, they live together, stitch together, drink together, scheme together and hilariously pledge never to part. Parting would seem unlikely since they’re already 40, hardly attractive, and entirely unmarried, if not unmanned. So dedicated is the duo to their sewing tasks— to better get on to the later libation — that their store even contains an no-gossip sign (“RESTRICT YOUR CONVERSATION TO THE BUSINESS AT HAND.”) All’s very well indeed, tongue and (very) cheeky, until their auntie gets one of them to attend a wedding (Constitución wins a coin flip), and lo and behold a suitor enters the picture. What to do? Oh my. Sisterhood is one thing but twin-hood? Since a mole is all that differentiates them, how’s suitor-rancher Oscar to tell the difference if they just maintain their… virtue. And share… But what about?… And Gloria does like making out. So what is it to be, “everything halved” or “fusion refashioned”?

Daniel Sada’s short but piquantly sweet identity romp is frolicking and rollicking little tale (affair?), stuffed with chipper, comically staccato prose that would make Sancho Panza proud. This is Sada reveling in third-person narrator fun (“we” this and “we” that) at the expense of two sides of the same coin, stuffing his loony ladies (“Bloodcurdling copies!”) with oddball affectations and a militant dedication to each other —”Our sameness must be safeguarded.” It is a sameness they will eventually have to set aside if “the passion to be one,” not two into one, is to be accomplished.

Here’s a nuanced and cadenced parable about identity, like-mindedness, and the ample pleasure of “two peas in a pod” pettiness. “Ingenuity and well-oiled wit” is ascribed to Constitución, but those traits belong to Sada alone, whose 2011 death deprived the Spanish-speaking world of a unique and idiosyncratic vision of the quirky whys of human existence.

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