Map Drawn By A Spy

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 26 Jun 2017

Member Reviews

I didn't know going in that this was a manuscript Cabrera Infante didn't really intend to publish. It does show in the strange hurry up and wait pacing and the constant name dropping. (I went and talked to _______ for three hours and he was unbearable in a way.) On the other hand, it is a good portrait of Cuba in an inbetween type of period in  its history.
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After his death in 2005, Guillermo Cabrera Infante’s account of the last four months he spent in his native Cuba in 1965 was discovered and is here published in English. He was the cultural attaché in Brussels but returns to Havana when his mother dies, fully expecting to go back to his post within a short time. But then permission to leave is revoked and there follows a long and anxious, rather Kafkaesque wait, to see if he will finally be allowed to leave. These are the early days of Castro’s dictatorship and the details about day-to-day life under the new regime are certainly interesting  - the censorship, the lack of food, the rationing, the repression of free-speech and the attacks on homosexuals – but overall it’s a rambling and repetitive account involving a number of people who are unfamiliar to a European readership, and the list of these people which is helpfully included comes at the end of the book when it’s too late to enhance the reading. I really wonder whether this was actually ever intended for publication, at least in its current state. It’s rambling and discursive and consists largely of Infante wandering about Havana meeting friends, drinking and having amorous encounters, which are described in too much detail for comfort. I can’t help wondering what the point of it all was. It definitely would have benefited from an introduction, or at least a foreword, to put it all into context, and it felt to me like some lazy publishing. I found it quite tedious at times, especially in the second half of the book. Not a very good introduction to Infante’s writing, unfortunately.
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