Map drawn by a spy by Guillermo Cabrera Infante

Map drawn by a spy by Guillermo Cabrera Infante

Cuban memoir

Original title – Mapa dibujado por un espía

Translator – Mark Fried

Source – Personal copy

I have long been a fan of Infante’s work it started when I read three trapped tigers fairly early on in the blog.I also review a view of dawn in the tropics both of these books showed different sides to the man as a writer and this shows another side. This follows a time after Infante had spent time in Brussels as a cultural attache  for three years from 1962 as he had fallen out of favor in the year before his posting with the Castro Regime, a piece about Cuban nightlife his brother had written (Three trapped tigers strikes me as a lament to the scene that died in the early Castro years). This starts when he returns to Havana for his mothers funeral.

He climbed the stairs and in the vestibule a sign suprised him:

Chapel C

Zoila Infante

Seeing her name in black and white, the reality of this mothers death hit home. Another flight of steps took him to chapel C and soon he was in the anteroom, which was filled with friends and acquaintances. He saw his father, smaller, shrunken astonshingly aged, emerging from the sweltering chapel and walking toward him.

“Come, so you can see her , the poor woman.”

“No, no.”

“come on you must. She’s laid out in there”

“No, no. I don’t want to, I don’t wamt to see her”

He returns and I think of the description of his father and the changes over three years is also for the country he has returned too.

‘The book follows the time he returns for his mothers funeral he intends to stay a week. He should known it might have been trouble when he had booked his flight there and back via Prague.  But then is told he can’t board his return flight and has to spend time in a Cuba that has much change in the three years he has been gone. His going was brought on by the early indications of what he found on his return and that is the cutting down of voices that only in little bits query the Castro regime. This is shown when he finds some of his editor friends have lost jobs and the way people are following new rules. As he sees the changes in the world around him as he meets a lot of his old friends this is the style of the book meeting events everyday life but this is what he sees changing the way his friends that remained or there almost Kafka worries of the world around them and what the regime is doing. This is a glimpse of Cuba in those early post-Castro years.

Titon spoke in a low voice, but freely nd frankly, without apparent concern for the waiters coming and goings. He described the situation the perscution of Homosexuals, the cultural coulcil’s imposed orthodxy, problems at the university. About the university he went on atsome length and recounted his personal experience : he  and two others from the film isitute attended one of the trials the student federation was holding of supposed counterrevolutionaries on campus. At the “trial” there were two accused, a boy and a girl. The jury was the audience.

This remind me of Kafka the way the world of his friends had changed in the three years he had been gone.

This is a flipside for me to three trapped tigers the atmosphere of three trapped tigers I said when I read it had a feel of jazz and the night. This has a different feel there is real tension in the world he sees his friends are changed it is as though he as returned and they have all been replaced with Kafka characters. The world he sees is one of rules and freedoms being cut and the uncertainty that brings to everyday life especially in his creative circle where simple things can be taken the wrong way. What was a brief week for his mother funeral turns into a Kafkaesque nightmare as he has to spend four months more in the New Cuba? I have two more books by Infante on my shelves and can’t wait to add them to the blog.

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