Excerpt from Havana Fever by Leonardo Padura, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Havana Fever

by Leonardo Padura

Havana Fever by Leonardo Padura
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • Paperback:
    May 2009, 285 pages

  • Rate this book

Book Reviewed by:
Kim Kovacs

Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt

The Count swallowed Amalia’s torrent of words sitting on the edge of their threadbare sofa, smoking and using his hand as an ashtray, until Dionisio returned with a chipped, gold-edged dessert dish which he apologetically handed to the smoker. But Dionisio’s actions went unnoticed by the Count, entranced by that chronicle of irrational loyalty. His emotions hadn’t, however, entirely stifled his critical powers: the automatic alarm developed by his time in the police was alerting him to the fact that it was only part of the story, perhaps the most pleasant or dramatic part, though for the time being he had to go along with what he’d heard.

“Well, if you’ve made your minds up . . . I’ll come back tomorrow . . .”

“Won’t you take any books now?” Amalia almost implored.

“I’m really not carrying enough money on me . . .”

Amalia looked at her brother and took the initiative: “Look, we can see you are a decent, honest fellow . . .”

“It’s years since I’ve heard that phrase,” the Count responded. “A decent, honest . . .”

“Yes, we can tell,” the translucent woman assured him. “Can you imagine the number of bandits we’ve had to deal with to sell the vases and other adornments? And how often they offered a pittance for things that were really valuable? Look, just make us an offer, take a few books and . . . pay us what you can. How about it? You can come back, draw up whatever inventory you want and take the books you then decide to buy . . .”

Conde noticed that while Amalia was talking, Dionisio reacted almost defensively as if he wanted to shield himself from the words he was hearing. He discreetly averted his gaze in the direction of the library, whose mirrored doors remained open, as if inviting him to walk in and help himself to the royal banquet spread out there.

“I’ve got five hundred pesos on me . . . Four hundred and ninety, to be exact. If I’m going to take a few books with me now I’ll need ten for a minicab.”

“That will do . . .” she replied, unable to rein in her eagerness. Conde preferred to walk into the library rather than return Amalia’s look, let alone Dionisio’s. Able to obliterate the remnants of pride and an old pledge, their despair was the last scrap of dignity to be destroyed by the calamities that had destroyed those lives. Yet again, he regretted the sordid side of his trade, but soon found relief from remorse in his quest for books that would easily sell on the market. Two volumes of population censuses prior to 1940 that an Italian was after, a client of his partner Yoyi Pigeon, were the first he put aside. He then picked out three first editions of works by Fernando Ortiz – that were always easy to place with readers keen on rumbling the mysteries of the world of Afro-Cubans; a first edition of The Slave-trader, by Lino Novás Calvo; and, after putting to one side several books printed in the nineteenth century whose value he needed to check out, he bagged several historical monographs published in Havana, Madrid and Barcelona in the twenties and thirties, that didn’t have tremendous bibliographical value, but were coveted by the non-Cuban buyers who flitted from one second-hand bookseller’s stall to another. He was about to shut his bag and tot up the total, when he saw before his eyes a book that practically screamed at him: it was an intact, sturdy, healthy, well-nourished copy of My Pleasure? with the secondary title of An indispensable . . . culinary guide, printed by Úcar y García in 1956, and illustrated by the great cartoonist, Conrado Massaguer. Ever since that remote afternoon when the Count had seen that book for the first time in the hands of a nouveau riche owner of several of those private restaurants that sprang up in the first days of dire shortages, as a compulsive buyer of gastronomic literature, he’d tried to track it down, thrilled by its wonderful recipes for Creole and international cuisine, compiled to satisfy the most aristocratic kitchens in an era when aristocratic kitchens still existed in Cuba. However, the Count’s persistent search wasn’t driven by bibliophilic or even commercial goals, but the grandiose, self-interested idea that he might present that wonder to old Josefina, the only person the Count knew with a magical ability to conjure up miracles – even in times of Crisis – and convert those dream dishes into edible realities.

Excerpted from Havana Fever by Leonardo Padura Copyright © 2009 by Leonardo Padura. Excerpted by permission of Bitter Lemon Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten!

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Hillbilly Elegy
    Hillbilly Elegy
    by J.D. Vance
    In this illuminating memoir, Vance recounts his trajectory from growing up a "hillbilly" in ...
  • Book Jacket: The Dark Flood Rises
    The Dark Flood Rises
    by Margaret Drabble
    Margaret Drabble, the award-winning novelist and literary critic who is approaching eighty and ...
  • Book Jacket: All Our Wrong Todays
    All Our Wrong Todays
    by Elan Mastai
    You need a great deal of time to read All Our Wrong Todays, but don't let that put you off. ...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
The Atomic Weight of Love
by Elizabeth J. Church

In the spirit of The Aviator's Wife, this resonant debut spans from World War II through the Vietnam War.

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    by Melissa Scrivner Love

    An astonishing debut crime thriller about an unforgettable woman.
    Reader Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    Mercies in Disguise
    by Gina Kolata

    A story of hope, a family's genetic destiny, and the science that rescued them.
    Reader Reviews

Who Said...

Don't join the book burners...

Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!

Word Play

Solve this clue:

O My D B

and be entered to win..

Books that     

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.

Modal popup -