Pig’s foot by Carlos Acosta

pigs foot

Pig’s Foot by Carlos Acosta

Cuban fiction

Original title –  Pata de Puerco

Translator – Frank Wynne

Source – from Frank the translator of the book .

Well when I first heard last year that Carlos Acosta had a novel out ,I was a bit sceptical the whole celeb writing novel is never a real winning formula in my Opinion .Carlos  is someone I have been aware of for a number of years as one of the face of Ballet ,where he has been a star of the Royal ballet and is considered the greatest male dancer of his generation .It wasn’t till I saw Frank’s name attached to the book as the translator , I knew this was more than a run of the mill celeb writes novel (May be awful but celeb names sell books is my usual view on celeb novels and why they come out  ) .

Beuno … Ok .. the first thing you need to know about me is I never knew my mother or my father ,in fact I only found their names a couple of months ago .My memories begin on the day i came home from primary school dragging a dead cat by the scruff of the neck .I must have been about seven .

What happen before he was seven has he blocked this out ?

So pig’s foot is the of a family told by its last surviving member as he holds the pig’s foot  amulet a family talisman passed through the generations .Also to the very small village in the hinterland of Cuba is  were a  family story and the story of Cuba during the past four generations is told .So from Oscar and Jose who were  Slaves  that helped in the freedom  and end up settling in the village after Cuba gets it Independence in the 1850 ,we see the the next generation through the eyes of three children relate to another Oscar in the present day the last of this family line .alive , as the years past we see the good and bad of Cuba ,from the rise of Us involvement to the fall of the regime that was toppled by Castro .

I looked at the pendant in disgust .The pig’s foot was not dried and shrivelled ,in fact seemed to be alive ;the veins pulsed ,the flesh was red and bled constantly .I fetched a damp cloth to wipe up the blood inside the drawer and on the floor then ran back into the kitchen and threw the gruesome amulet in the bin .

The amulet comes to life ,this remind me a bit of Marquez .

Now I loved another Cuban novel  I reviewed ,well  novel isn’t  the right word it’s actually a collection of vignettes about Cuba .The book view of the tropics in the  dawn  by Guillermo Cabrera Infante ,this book also follows Cuba through snippets from independence to the Castro took over so actually serves well as a companion to this book ,Carlos book is on a more personnel level but also shows the struggles Cuba have had since its independence .I read an interview with Carlos about the writing of the book and the writers he loves and he read his first book in his twenties and it was a book by Marquez and the is touches of magic realism in this narrative ,he also loves the writing  Borges ,which for me I felt more as there is a lot of looking where the modern Oscar comes from about the mirror of his life almost and to me that is a very Borges thing to do .As ever frank has work wonders on this book ,Carlos even thanked Frank for his input to the final edition .You will remember I had this on my IFFP prediction its a shame it missed it the book is more than a celeb novel ,in fact it could be the first step for Carlos Acosta in a post dance career .

Have you ever read a celeb novel that is as good as this one ?

View of dawn in the Tropics by G. Cabrera Infante

View of dawn in the Tropics by G Cabrera Infante

Cuban Fiction

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 ?

THREE TRAPPED TIGER BY G CABRERA INFANTE

source –  library

Guillermo Infante was one of the leading Cuban writers ,essayists and translator ,he was an early supportER of Castro but fell out with the regime and lived in London in Exile .The book Tres tristes tigres (three sad tigers ) or as it has been retitle three trapped tigers is considered his best book and described as the Cuban Ulysses (oh that’s going to worry some ,but stick along it is only 400 pages long ).

The book looks back to the Cuba before the revolution in the 50’s  the time of Jazz clubs loose ,morals and a laid back way of life .,we find the night life of the Cuban capital described involved via various people ,this is a modernist work so the narrative Jumps but you get the sense of the Jazz beat in the background ,in places books are discussed there are blank pages ,Pharses are repeated over the course of the page ,Can see people worrying ,don’t this book when it is straight narrative reads like short stories jammed together in a small space ,his prose style is readable ,There is a new film Just been made animated film called Chico and Rita I heard about this film and saw a number of clips just before I read this book and it wonderfully gave me the vision of the male and female characters we jump in and out of through the book.there are times you can almost feel the whispers of jazz and cuban cigars flow out of the page .Infante’s writing is adventurous but on whole readable ,the translation seems to work wonderfully.

I knew la Estrella when she was only Estrella Rodriguez ,a poor drunk  incredibly fat negro maid ,long before she died ,when none of those who know her well had the vaguest idea she was capable of killing herself  but then of course nobody would have been sorry if she did .

opening of a chapter about a nightclub singer .

This is an era and place I know little about this book made me want to know more about pre revolution Cuba .I can see why it is called the Cuban Ulysses but it can be off-putting  ,putting it on the cover thou it is a wonderful journey but near end wanders a little but I viewed it like an evening in Havana although it isn,t over an evening like a long evening you get a bit tipsy and wander in your thoughts near the end of the night .

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