Monday, November 30, 2009

"A Deep and Terrible Idealism" - The Best Thing (about Cuba) I've read (translated from Spanish) this week (III)

Back in the late 1990s when I was in grad school, I briefly subscribed to The Nation, one of the United States' oldest and leading "progressive" or "leftist" magazines. However, I found most of the articles downright paranoid and so let my subscription lapse after the first year. I much preferred (and prefer) the more ironic and less clearly partisan journalistic approach of The New Yorker.

Now, after enduring 8 years of George W. and his endless lies and triangulations, I must grant that the editors at The Nation may have had a solid foundation for their paranoia.

After reading, "Travels by Taxi: Reflections on Cuba," the lead article in the forthcoming December 14 edition of The Nation (now available on-line) by Cuban writer José Manuel Prieto, I may just have to re-subscribe to that old lefty rag.

The article, adapted from the book-length manuscript, La Revolucion Cubana explicada a los taxistas (incisively translated here by my Baruch colleague Esther Allen) takes off from the provocative premise of the author's undying frustration at attempting to explain the nuances and ultimate failure of a revolution that instead inspires an inexplicable admiration in an unending series of cabbies he has met across the world - from New York, to Madrid, to Mexico City.

While each and every paragraph is filled with unexpected gems of observation, memoir, analysis, wit, and wisdom, I'll leave you with just this taste from the opening page...

"I debated whether to smile or take umbrage, eternally amazed by the tremendous popularity of the Cuban Revolution among the taxi drivers of the world.

"Once, in Rome, I kept my mouth shut, as in fact I've mostly kept it shut, lost in a monologue I know I'll never impose on any poor cabbie's good nature. A monologue about this enormous mistake: the astonishing popularity of Fidel Castro and the Cuban Revolution. About everything I'd like to add, to nuance, amazed as I am to see it all reduced to a single name. And about the distress it always gives me--or rather, the perplexity."
Also, you gotta love a guy who can write a sophisticated, humorous, and convincing (at least to me) article that includes these two true, if seemingly contradictory, declarations:

"The Cuban Revolution is a resounding failure."
"The Cuban Revolution won."

PS: The Nation's website also features a 10 minute video interview with the author by Nation contributor Daniel Wilkinson, the deputy director of the Americas division at Human Rights Watch. Prieto also has his own blog here.

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