Friday, December 29, 2006

Book Review: Adios Muchachos by Daniel Chavarría

Back in the distant past books and films in translation always seemed to verge on the arty side. This has changed over the last ten years or so with the proliferation of popular fiction in translation. The last two offerings I have read for TBR (both from the Spanish) - Raul Nuñez’s The LonelyHearts Club and Pedro Juan Gutiérrez’s Dirty Havana Trilogy - are typical of this trendy new wave. These novels are anything but arty; in fact, I doubt there is a word as long as ‘pretentious’ in either one. Adios Muchachos follows in this tradition. For those having a sense of déjà vu this is the UK’s first publishing, and Serpent’s Tail, following the 2001 release in the US, have given the book a graphic-design cover, but made it brighter, more modern and, appropriately, toned down the illustration to a less tarty looking girl. The cover boasts ‘2002 Edgar Award Winner’ for best original paperback; and Martin Cruz Smith’s blurb: ‘Pulp fiction in Castro’s Cuba…sex, scheming, and, well, more sex’. So, we have a mystery-cum-sex book (sic).

The opening line says a lot about the speed, style and content of what follows: "When Alicia decided to become a bicycle hooker, her mother agreed to sell a ring that had been in the family for five generations." Straight in, no messing about, we know mum is going to invest heavily so her daughter can become a prostitute. Not your everyday family setup then. In fact mum cooks fantastic meals for the foreign-tourist-johns that Alicia brings home through a scam with her built-to-break-down bike. It is a good investment and soon the two have a healthy stockpile of refrigerators, air conditioners and so on as Alicia doesn’t really do it for money; she is even insulted if money is offered. No, what she wants is a stinking rich husband who lives anywhere other than Cuba, so to blatantly come across as a hooker is not on.
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And a brief biographic note on Daniel Chavarría.

Writer, professor of Greek and Latin. Daniel Chavarria is considered one of the greatest pen of the Spanish Literature, despite his work was published for the first time on 1978. He lives in Cuba since 1969. As fluent speaker of five languages, he has been serving as German translator for the Cuban Institute of Book and professor of Latin, Greek and Classic Literature at the Havana University among 1975 and 1986.

Author of literary and political papers, movie and TV scripts, he considers himself as a pupil of who is, in his opinion, an ''extraordinary fable narrator'', Alejo Carpentier. ''I consider myself his pupil, he was master of Spanish language during the last century, a figure to whom I devoted ''El Ojo de Cibeles'', my novel awarded in Mexico.
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