Excerpt from The Black Cathedral by Marcial Gala, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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

The Black Cathedral

by Marcial Gala

The Black Cathedral by Marcial Gala X
The Black Cathedral by Marcial Gala
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Jan 2020, 224 pages
    Jan 2021, 224 pages


  • Rate this book

Book Reviewed by:
Elisabeth Cook
Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt



Besides David King and Samuel Prince, there was an older one, Mary Johannes, she was called, or still is, because she's alive and things are going better for her than for us. They arrived in Punta Gotica one day in an old Ford truck with Camagüey plates. I remember them unloading their stuff. Too much furniture for someone moving into a neighborhood like this, I thought from the first.


I was playing soccer when they arrived. This can't be good, I thought, because the girl riding in the truck's cab was fanning herself and looking at the neighborhood as if they'd dropped her right at the doors to hell. "One more sucker in town," I said out loud, and went back to doing my thing. The guys were just kids then; Cricket, the older one, already looked like a total nutjob. I can take that one, I'll hack him down like a palm tree, I thought, because he was very tall. "Guts, he's so tall he can't scratch his own ass," Nacho Fat-Lips said, and passed me the ball.


I've lived here for years, but that doesn't mean I'm tied down here. The thing is that this place, before the riffraff began moving in, was a rooming house for sailors. That was back in the time of the other government, and a nephew of President Machado himself lived in one of the rooms. He'd also met José Martí's son, you know, that Ismaelillo—and actually, it seems that Martí wasn't as famous then as he is now, when he shows up all over the place and you can't even turn on the TV without hearing, "As the apostle of Cuban independence said," and, well, it gets a little old. They say that Ismaelillo was in the business of renting out rooms, and one of his customers was this nephew of Machado's, who owed him for about six months. He didn't charge him because, on the day that he personally went to kick him out of the house, all of Martí's works were there in a bookcase, cared for like they were made of gold, and Ismaelillo got sentimental and forgave Machado's relative, who, now that I think of it, must have been his nephew by marriage, because no matter how cheap he was, a former president wouldn't have his sister's son renting one of these little rooms that get miserable as hell on a hot day, now would he? But back to the folks from Camagüey: when they got here, it had been three months since I'd broken up with Chago, and, well, I really had a thing for everything from the eastern part of the island, and when I heard they were from around there, I went to take a look at the move, specifically so that I could drop a few snide comments here and there to see if the new neighbor had it in her to hop over and say something to me, to show me up front what this family was really made of.


I didn't see them arrive, since I was at school. It was my mother who told me that old Castillo's place had been taken over by a family with a girl who was more or less my age, but that she didn't want us getting together right away. "First you have to get to know people," she said. "That's why things happen to you, you're too trusting." I told her it was fine, that I didn't really want to meet anyone anyway, but after I changed out of my uniform, since I didn't have anything else to do, I sat at the door to our house and looked over at the place that used to belong to Castillo, an old man who, as mean-spirited gossip had it, died of cirrhosis.


All of it could have been avoided if they hadn't drawn so much attention, but ever since they arrived, with their stuck-up faces and wearing that fancy gear, the people in the neighborhood fell all over themselves for them. "Did you meet the folks from Camagüey?" Lucy the gum seller asked me, taking over a little plate of sweet potato pudding to the girl, who, according to the mother, was in delicate health. I had seen that young girl and she seemed healthy as a horse, thin, with slanted eyes, a beautiful black girl, yes, but full of herself—now she lives in Italy, all the ones like her end up over there.

Copyright © 2012 by Marcial Gala

Translation copyright © 2020 by Anna Kushner

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • 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 $12 for 3 months or $39 for a year.
  • More about membership!

Join BookBrowse

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

Find out more

Today's Top Picks

  • Book Jacket: The Wrong End of the Telescope
    The Wrong End of the Telescope
    by Rabih Alameddine
    Rabih Alameddine's The Wrong End of the Telescope follows Mina, a Lebanese American doctor who ...
  • Book Jacket: Lightning Strike
    Lightning Strike
    by William Kent Krueger
    It is the summer of 1963 in Tamarack County, Minnesota. Just outside the small town of Aurora, ...
  • Book Jacket: Skinship
    by Yoon Choi
    The fine thing about short stories in general is their way of following characters through ...
  • Book Jacket
    The Last Mona Lisa
    by Jonathan Santlofer
    In 1911, the Mona Lisa disappeared from its home at the Louvre in Paris. It took two years for the ...

Book Club Discussion
Book Jacket
Morningside Heights
by Joshua Henkin
A tender and big-hearted novel about love in the face of loss, from the award-winning author of The World Without You.

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    Flesh & Blood
    by N. West Moss

    This beautifully written memoir offers insight, understanding, and joy.

Win This Book!
Win Sisters of the Great War

Sisters of the Great War by Suzanne Feldman

A powerful novel of two unconventional American sisters who volunteer at the front during World War I.



Solve this clue:

Y A B Up T W T

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 the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.