“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 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 even more acute and 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.
“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
“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
“Very few authors evoke a visceral reaction with prose in the way that Sara Mesa does. . . . 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
“This is a linguistically precise, stylistically spare and emotionally devastating look at the corrosive effect of abuse and power imbalance, perfect for fans of Shirley Jackson and Samanta Schweblin.”—Cindy Pauldine, Shelf Awareness, starred review
“Like Buñuel’s Exterminating Angel, or even Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite, the rich are left rotting in a swamp of their own design. . . . Four by Four is an uncomfortably real look into the absurd world of the bourgeoisie. It is so complex and layered that, to reach a full understanding, one may have to read it two or even three times. Not a single character, after all, is what they seem.”—Noelle Mcmanus, The Women’s Review of Books
“A meticulously constructed and chilling study of desire and influence.”—Kirkus Reviews
“Mesa presents a painful exploration of inequity, cruelty, and the immeasurable cost of belonging.”—Terry Hong, Booklist
“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
“Mesa’s tale seeps into you with cold, Pinter-esque menace. It fills you with increasing dread as you realize that you need to see where the story is headed even as you suspect you are powerless to stop the pages turning towards a dark revelation.”—Merril Speck, Short Stories Bookshop
“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
“Sara Mesa’s prose has gradually strengthened, gaining depth and ambition, without abandoning her other inclinations: unsettling and oppressive atmospheres, characters powerless against the force of their destinies, and that which the author likes to call 'perverse utopias,' collective dreams condemned to failure again and again, burdened heavily by the community’s worst instincts.”—Alejandro Luque, Mercurio
“An original novel full of talent, an oppressive fable in which nothing is what it seems and in which its author shows herself to have some striking credentials: it is about somebody capable of creating a sophisticated nightmare using only one stroke of fine line.”—Pablo Martínez Zarracina, Bilbao
“The book’s action takes place in a boarding school . . . Sara Mesa uses this backdrop for her meditation on the relationships that are formed in closed spaces and the undercurrents of violence that generate hierarchy; in this case between students (the wealthy and those with scholarships), the teachers and the school management. On the outside there is danger, on the inside is protection, the rules, but there also exists evil . . . Secrets, class difference, abuse of power and the oppressive space are the common denominators of all the parts of this sordid tale, that to a certain extent reminds us of Elvira Navarro and which, upon finishing, leaves us ice cold and wanting more.”—Álex Gil, Qué Leer
“One of the most promising authors of today, who stands out among other virtues for her despairing vision and her talent for creating charged atmospheres, as well as her capacity for creating singular characters, frequently despicable to those who observe with malevolent humor not exempt of compassion.”—Braulio Ortiz, Málaga Hoy