Thursday, January 23, 2014

Cuban novelist Leonardo Padura in the NYT & coming to NYC!

Translated by Anna Kushner 
576 pages. $35.
Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
Yesterday's New York Times carried a very detailed and favorable review by the Mexican writer Álvaro Enrigue of the new English translation of Leonardo Padura's The Man Who Loved Dogs.  For those who haven't yet read the original El hombre que amaba a los perros, which was first published in Spain in 2009, the book is a penetrating historical novel that follows the fated path of Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky into exile and eventually death - murdered with an icepick by the Spanish spy Ramón Mercader under orders from Stalin's KGB.

Though such overtly political and blood-soaked subject matter makes this novel quite different from Padura's famed (and on-going) Havana-based crime novels all of which feature detective Mario Conde, Padura gives us a key Cuban character in this book as well.

After Iván Cárdenas - perhaps a stand in for Conde or even Padura himself - has a chance run-in with Mercader in 1970s Cuba, he embarks on his own historical and political re-education peeling back layer after layer of this mystery man's true identity - while uncovering the hidden history of Soviet (and Cuban?) Stalinism at the same time.  This narrative strategy allows the reader to connect the far flung events in this world-historical and geo-political thriller (Moscow, Barcelona, Mexico City, etc.) back to contemporary Cuba itself, which is indeed the place where the real Ramón Mercader spent his final days.

For two other noteworthy - but very different - reviews of the novel, I recommend you look at what Alan Woods has to say at the site In Defense of Marxism (no, I'm not kidding!) as well as what Nicholas Mancusi had to say recently in The Miami Herald.  

In a related - and quite fortuitous - turn of events, I was just today contacted by Padura himself through his US publisher, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, asking if I'd agree to moderate the book's New York launch and discussion with Padura himself next month in New York City at the Instituto Cervantes.  Of course, I told them that I'd be honored!

If you want to join us, the event will be:
Monday, February 24 at 7:00 p.m.
Instituto Cervantes
211-215 East 49th Street
New York, NY 10017
Subway E,V to Lexington Ave-53rd St; 6 to 51st St.
RSVP - Phone: (212) 308-7720; E-mail:

PS: For more on Padura, I highly recommend the following two items.

First, the intrepid New Yorker journalist Jon Lee Anderson - recent recipient of Columbia University's Maria Moors Cabot award for journalism - published a fine, provocative profile of Padura, "Private Eyes," just last October.  It reads like a crash course in "Contemporary Cuba 101" mixed with "how to survive (and even thrive) as a writer in today's Cuba, without becoming a comemierda."  I forced my students to read it last semester and they actually liked it and learned a lot!

Second, Padura just published the latest installment in his Mario Conde crime novel series, entitled Herejes (Heretics) - which focuses in part on the fraught journey of Polish Jews to Cuba and the Cuban Jewish histories and communities in both Cuba and Miami.  The cutting edge Cuban news blog Café Fuerte recently published a nice review of the book accompanied by a blurb announcing Padura's upcoming visit to Miami, where he will deliver his first-ever lecture at a Miami-area university on February 18.

His topic: The theme of liberty as treated in his novel Herejes. He will be hosted by Florida International University's Javier Figueroa and the Cuban Research Institute.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Brother can you spare $264k?

Photos courtesy of CNN's Patrick Oppmann.
And we thought the price of "public" Internet in Cuba was high...

I'm not an economist, so can an economist please explain the above pricing scheme to me? (See link to BBC article below).

  • The good ole law of supply (very limited) and demand (altísima)?
  • Monopoly pricing?
  • A special deal with Geely, whose new cars are much cheaper (see second photo above) at a mere $42k?

Talk about two steps forward and one step back! But I assume these prices will drop over time as happened with cell phones.

Still, I guess this just proves the most savage form of capitalism is found in (formerly) socialist countries...

BBC Mundo - "El exorbitante precio de los autos en Cuba: hasta US$262.000 por un Peugeot"