View of dawn in the Tropics by G Cabrera Infante
Translated by Suzanne Jill Levine
Guillermo Cabrera Infante is probably the find of this reader ever since I read three trapped tigers .I d been wanting to try another of his books .He grew up in cuba his parents were militant communists and when he was seven spent time in prison on the canary islands they returned to Havana when he was 12 .He started writing in the fifties and fell foul of the Batista regime being censored ,He initially supported the Castro regime and was appointed to the national council of culture when Castro came to power ,but was later a critic of the regime and was sent to Belgium by castro then via spain finally settled in Exile in London .So to view of dawn in the tropics which was another Sheffield find from a couple of months ago .
The island came out of the sea like a venus land :out of the foam constantly beautiful .But there were more islands .in the beginning they were solitary islands .
The opening of View of ..
So view dawn in the tropics is an experimental novel ,a collection of roughly a hundred pen picture or vignettes which ever takes your fancy .These little gems tell the story of his homeland Cuba from the first Time the Spanish reached it in 1492 ,through the death of the native Indian tribes ,the slave trade ,uprisings of the slaves . the war with America ,The cuban Jazz age ,the Batista regime and the finally the Castro led revolution ..So we see the Tobacco trade and haunting snippets of how the white owners treated the Black slaves when they tried a mutiny by hang corpses from trees as a warning to all the over slaves not to revolt .Then we later see the black dandy’s dressed in all there splendour in the 1930 as the Jazz age and america’s influence gripped the island some these little snippets remind me of Infante’s other book three trapped tigers that is set during the same time and had a real Cuban jazz beat to its writing .Then first the hope of Castro coming to power and then the despair of castro .
Dawn came as always .The moon was hidden early and venus first became more luminous and then paler,fainter.The land breeze had stopped .but it was cooler than it had been at sunset.
I choose this as it echo the opening and came nearer the end of the book .
This book is a classic piece of modernist experimental fiction ,hard to call a novel not a history really ,I feel maybe as I know he was a fan of Joyce (he translated Dubliners into Spanish )it maybe owes something to Ulysses as this is a collection of micro episodes like Ulysses is .Two other books that I was reminded of was Gunter Grass my century, that I feel is influenced by this book as grass told german history in the twentieth century also through a hundred vignettes by Grass .The other book I was reminded of mainly because I’d read it earlier this month is HHHH by Laurent Binet another book that style wise use small vignettes but not with the power of the writing Infante does in view of .I find it hard to believe this guy isn’t better known in the english speaking world he should be up next to Fuentes and Marquez .For his use of language is simply breath-taking he seems to make clever puns even work in translation ,rhythmic passages always seem to come with that cuban jazz beat behind them . But all that without being over bloated .Because every one of these vignettes ,feels like a gemstone that has been cut and polished until the shine and glitter .So why isn’t someone reissuing his cannon ,three trapped tigers was reissued in 2005 but with a terrible cover(sorry to mention covers again but it is a matter that bothers me great books with bad cover is worse than bad books with good covers to me ) well moan over .So hope for the second time I get someone to try this writer he is the most refreshing writer I ve read this book is so different to three trapped tigers and I think that is the mark of a master able to change writing style from book to book and to keep it readable .
Have you read Infante ? if so do you agree with me ?
What is your favourite Cuban novel ?