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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

Let No One Sleep

Juan José Millás

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To purchase Let No One Sleep

Title: Let No One Sleep
Author: Juan José Millás
Genre: Novel
Written: 2018 (Eng. 2022)
Length: 207 pages
Original in: Spanish
Availability: Let No One Sleep - US
Que nadie duerma - US
Let No One Sleep - UK
Let No One Sleep - Canada
Que nadie duerma - España
from: Bookshop.org (US)
  • Spanish title: Que nadie duerma
  • Translated by Thomas Bunstead
  • Que nadie duerma is being made into a film, directed by Antonio Méndez Esparza and to be released in 2023

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Our Assessment:

A- : nicely layered and twisted

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
El Cultural . 13/4/2018 Pilar Castro
El País . 6/3/2018 José-Carlos Mainer

  From the Reviews:
  • "Esta mujer sola, traicionada, presentada como el personaje de una ficción cómica, tragicómica en el mejor de los casos (apostilla la voz narrativa), acaba en una realidad trágica. Seguimos sin saber si esa voz procede de la realidad o de la ficción, pero lo cierto es que, una vez más, logra el triunfo de la confusión de dimensiones que habita su ficción." - Pilar Castro, El Cultural

  • "Millás ha escrito una novela abrupta y enigmática, casi sin respiro, pero que encierra además un brusco -- aunque calculado -- cambio de dirección. Lo produce un engaño escarnecedor, otro robo descarado a la protagonista, cuya dolorosa revelación podría haber puesto final a una novela simplemente pesimista, como lo eran las del primer Millás. Pero la segunda parte -- significativamente breve -- es la descripción de una venganza total y terrible. Y donde se produce un decidido salto a la fantasía más cruel, como en un cuento gótico que remata además un espléndido e inesperado final." - José-Carlos Mainer, El País

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Let No One Sleep closely follows one character, Lucía, and begins with when she made a radical change in her life. She worked as a computer programmer but her company went under, her crooked boss filing fraudulently for bankruptcy, and instead of trying to get a similar position she's inspired to buy a taxi license and become a taxi driver. It's a significant career change, but she makes the transition easily.
       Lucía has no practically connection to her neighbors, her apartment building: "The kind of place where people didn't stay long", but classical music -- opera -- from one of her neighbors' apartments does drift in through the bathroom air vent. She becomes somewhat obsessed -- specifically then by Puccini's Turandot as well as that neighbor, who introduces himself the one time they meet as 'Calaf' (the prince in the opera who falls in love with Turandot). As it happens, Lucía's parents had given her a pet bird for her tenth birthday, and it was named Calaf. Lucía is also haunted by her mother's oft-repeated premonitory words and sense that: 'Something's going to happen' (and the sense that 'Something's going to happen' then comes up repeatedly as Lucía 's path progresses).
       Her neighbor moved out in the time between Lucía passing her taxi license exam and when she gets her own taxi, but she does learn his real name -- Braulio Botas -- from the building-super, and that he was an actor. Coïncidentally then, her very first fare is a producer for a theater company named Roberta, and while she says doesn't know Botas personally, she has heard of him. Lucía and Roberta hit it off, too, and Roberta becomes a steady customer, frequently calling Lucía when she needs a taxi. Eventually, Roberta also gives her a present -- a bird, a second Calaf.
       Lucía takes to her new job, while her obsession with Turandot -- and Botas -- also continue and then intensify. She frequently plays the opera while driving, pretends that she is driving the streets of Beijing rather than Madrid, and even makes herself up to look more like a Chinese woman. Eventually, she goes so far as to have 'Nessun dorma' -- the title of an aria from the opera, and the 'Let no one sleep' of the novel's title -- tattooed on her pubis -- hoping then to have the opportunity for the big reveal with Botas at some point .....
       Picking up fares makes for a variety of encounters, with Lucía occasionally getting more personal with her passengers. At one point she picks up her old boss from the IT company, affording her an opportunity for revenge -- though it turns out to be perhaps more than she had bargained for.
       Lucía is certain she will pick up Botas at some point, and she is always ready for it -- not least with: "the Puccini opera ready in the car stereo, like a bullet in the chamber". But when she does finally spy him -- and then follows through, learning what he has been up to since he moved from the apartment building -- she finds her carefully imagined fantasy radically reconceived.
       Let No One Sleep is presented in two parts, the much longer first essentially setting the stage and the second then neatly playing things out, with Lucía finding her recent experiences -- indeed her life -- essentially appropriated and re-presented in a way she could not have imagined.
       As she is told near the end:

     Real doesn't mean realistic. More than that, a real work of art should not be realistic. Reality and realism have nothing to do with each other, though most people get the two mixed up.
       Millás plays with all this very nicely in this multi-layered work of fantasy-tinged but realistic-seeming fiction that itself builds so much on another 'real work of art', Turandot. Lucía creates a sort of half-fantasy world for herself -- complete with dress-up, musical accompaniment, and the outlines of a plot (certain she is destined to meet Botas again) -- which also invigorates her day-to-day real-world experiences and encounters. Her life is upended then when she is confronted with what amounts to an alternate reading of it all -- something she does not take to at all well,
       In a nice resolution, Millás has her -- and his fiction -- be both viscerally real and go beyond the simple realistic, into such a 'real work of art'.
       Much of Let No One Sleep seems, at first, to be simply quirkily entertaining, but Millás conceives and ultimately reveals something considerably deeper. Lucía's story along the way is enjoyably off-beat -- which makes the turn of the final twist also all the more effective.

- M.A.Orthofer, 28 August 2022

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Let No One Sleep: Reviews: Que nadie duerma - the film: Other books by Juan José Millás under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Spanish author Juan José Millás was born in 1946.

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© 2022 the complete review

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