Never Have I Ever

Malika Atey
320 pages;

«Never Have I Ever» was shortlisted for The Lyceum Award (a prestigious Russian literary prize for young authors) in 2019 and was the only one non-Russian novel among 900 books. Malika Atey, a Kazakhstan author wrote a real-time story about young people of Kazakhstan in the style of Francoise Sagan and J.D. Salinger.

Modern human believes that there is nothing in common between his fate and the fate of his medieval predecessors, that a bank account and a washing machine make us gods, and we are no longer to comply with cruel laws of old times.

We do not have to hurry up with our lives — we are not going to die of plague, we can learn here and there and won’t be a professional in anything — the civilized world won’t let you down.

In a patriarchal town, where a bride has to be a virgin, but it is hard to build a long term relationships, Kora opens a lingerie studio. She believes that she is free to speak what she wants, have sex with whomever she wants and take revenge on those whom she doesn’t love. Let’s see how much time it takes for the disapproving society to destroy her little free world.

This is a book about gender inequality, about parents and children relations, friends, love and dreams.

This is also a reaction to the most topical and sharp issues of modern society from gas-lighting to abuse, which were forbidden to mentioning some years ago, but are coming to surface now. However, women’s rights are not the only topic raised by Malika Atey. «Never Have I Ever» is a story of hypocrisy, decency, corruption and fairness. Kora, the protagonist, can make a half naked photo shooting, but she is not fine with people’s meanness, she knows the price of success: doing something exceptionally well you may be far from being a success.

Malika Atey: «Robert Frost said: „No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader.“ There is a huge gap between a reader taken by the author to the party and offered a Martini and a table dance, and a reader reading a party report. When I was writing a scene of Kora being driven to the mountains and beaten there, I listened Tom Jones’s „Delilah“ on repeat: „She stood there laughing. I felt the knife in my hand and she laughed no more.“ With each repeat of this beautiful and dreadful waltz I imagined this mountain road of horror in more and more details and was afraid myself.»

Read more