Review of Mayra Montero's Captain of the Sleepers
Unless you have a taste for graphic depictions of necrophilia, you will never feel totally at ease reading Captain of the Sleepers in public. ("She was naked, perfumed and dry, totally dry, and I'd bet not as cold as and much less rigid than anyone would have suspected," begins the offender's tender recollection of the act.) Which will complicate things a bit, because the novel--the seventh by Cuban-born author Mayra Montero--is too engrossing to put down just to avoid inquisitive glances.
While this marks Montero's first foray into postmortem sex, both her fiction and nonfiction have always engaged deeply with life's darker passions. As a journalist in Puerto Rico (to which her family immigrated in the 1960s and where she has lived ever since), she covered the bloody coup d'états and revolutions in Central America and the Caribbean throughout the 1970s and '80s. Montero's first novel, The Braid of the Lovely Moon, published in 1987 and named a finalist for the prestigious Premio Herralde prize, delved into voodoo and the overthrow of Haitian dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier. And the work for which she is best known, her erotic fiction--notably the novels The Last Night I Spent With You and Deep Purple--typically uses lust to explore, in the author's words, "anguish about death." Captain of the Sleepers is no departure from that tradition.
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Cuban writer Mayra Montero was born in Havana, Cuba, in 1952, but has lived in Puerto Rico since the mid 1960s. She studied journalism in Mexico and Puerto Rico and worked for many years as a correspondent in Central America and the Caribbean. She is presently a highly acclaimed journalist in Puerto Rico and writes a weekly column in El Nuevo Dia newspaper. Montero's first book was a collection of short stories, Twenty-Three and a Turtle. Her second book, a novel titled The Braid of the Beautiful Moon, was a finalist for the Herralde awards, one of Europe's most prestigious literary awards.