Havana, 2003, fourteen years since Mario Conde retired from the police force and much has changed in Cuba. He now makes a living trading in antique books bought from families selling off their libraries in order to survive. In the house of Alcides de Montes de Oca, a rich Cuban who fled after the fall of Batista, Conde discovers an extraordinary book collection and, buried therein, a newspaper article about Violeta del Rio, a beautiful bolero singer of the 1950s, who disappeared mysteriously. Condes intuition sets him off on an investigation that leads him into a darker Cuba, now flooded with dollars, populated by pimps, prostitutes, drug dealers and other hunters of the night. But this novel also allows Padura to evoke the Havana of Batista, the city of a hundred night clubs where Marlon Brando and Josephine Baker listened to boleros, mambos and jazz. Probably Paduras best book, Havana Fever is many things: a suspenseful crime novel, a cruel family saga and an ode to literature and his beloved, ravaged island.
A side: Be gone from me
. . .In your life I'll be the best
from the mists of yesterday
when you've forgotten me,
like the best poems always
the one we can't remember.
Virgilio y Homero Expósito, Be gone from me
The symptoms hit him suddenly, like a voracious wave sweeping
a child off a quiet shore and dragging him into the depths of the
sea: a lethal double blow to the stomach, numbness that turned his
legs to jelly, a cold sweat on his palms and, above all, the searing
pain, under his left nipple, which accompanied every single hunch
hed ever had.
As soon as the doors to the library slid open, the smell of old paper and hallowed places floating in that mind-blowing room overwhelmed him. In his far-off years as a police detective, Mario Conde had learnt to recognize the physical signs of his situation-saving hunches: he must have been wondering if hed ever experienced such a powerful flood of sensations.
Initially he was all set to...
Purely as a mystery novel, Havana Fever is top-notch and a terrific example of modern noir.
The real highlight of the book, though, is Padura's rich and evocative writing style. He brilliantly conjures up both the smoky nightclubs of Batista's Havana in the 1950s and the city's present poverty, comparing and contrasting the two different eras. Both are dark, gritty and rife with corruption. The modern scenes in particular are cloaked in an oppressive, unrelenting gloom that doesn't begin to lift until the book's final pages. The writing is almost poetic at times. (Reviewed by Kim Kovacs).
Full Review (1141 words).
The Cuban Bolero
The Cuban bolero is the first internationally recognized music form to originate in Cuba. Closely related to trovador songs and habaneras, boleros are songs of romance, featuring themes of love and heartbreak. The music is most often slow, sensual and deeply romantic.
The Cuban bolero is often confused with the Spanish bolero. The two forms arose independently, apparently neither influencing the other. Whereas the Spanish bolero is always in 3/4 time, the Cuban version is in 2/4 or 4/4. In addition, the Cuban version is heavily influenced by African-based rhythms. The two styles are danced differently, as well; the Spanish bolero has couples dancing apart, while the Cuban bolero is danced by couples ...
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