Who escaped and who stayed? Padura narrates the surrender of Cuba

The “Great Novel of the Cuban Diaspora” Spanish newspaper El Pais identified this streamlined novel by Leonardo Padura, like dust in the wind (Pompani, translated by Bruno Arbia, pp. 743, €22). Born in 1955, Padura is one of the writers who never left Cuba, as a teenager when the Castro and Guevarion legend still served as an ideological soundboard, in their thirties when the breakup of the Soviet Union turned into a disaster for the regime, she suddenly found herself bereft of that help, not Only the economic, which Moscow and the system of alliances fully guaranteed in the Warsaw Pact until then. The galaxy of socialist states of the small island also allowed for intellectual exchanges, scholarships, cultural trips, and in short what the West, however communist, best in the broader field of education, gave the younger Cuban generations hope and/or the illusion of not considering efforts to obtain To a degree and for the sake of a recognized role within the country, it does not matter or fail. In some ways, this system of alliances meant that some of the Cuban privileges, already in pre-Castro Cuba, medicine, to give just one example, 80 percent literacy, were not much affected by the ideological ice created on the one hand by Castro’s nationalist Marxism, from On the other hand, due to the political inability of the United States to accept that island that until the day before was connected with business, and the underworld, which was made in the United States, wanted to defend its independence.

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The diaspora that is the protagonist of Padura’s novel, hitherto three million exiles against a population of 11 million, is of particular interest because it has little or nothing to do with ideological struggle or ideal battles, freedom versus oppression, democracy versus dictatorship, but above all with failure Economic, social and political, having to admit that this system alone was not able to walk, was and still is artificial. Before or at the end of the last century there were other cases of exile: “Those who left almost as fugitives in the 1960s, having lost their jobs, their origins, their nationality, and in many cases after having spent months working in the sugarcane fields, as convicts. Those who boarded the boats that arrived in Mariel port in 1980, were insulted by the crowd who described them as malicious, antisocial, jurists or prostitutes, and were even victims of physical assaults by hordes of zealous revolutionaries.

In short, Like Dust in the Wind is a double-generational novel, as it tells of the recognition of the disappointment of those who, like Padura himself and the book heroes who mirror their age, Clara, Dario, Irvine and Joel, are amazed witnessing the end of the revolutionary legend: “The demolition continued at an increasingly accelerating pace and the country remained Without political allies, but above all without food, oil, transportation, electricity, medicine, paper and even cigarette rum, and the arrival of a new historical moment baptized in a nice euphemism as a special period in times of peace period. How long does the cycle last? (…). What is clear is that the reality of the island has entered a dark tunnel, the exit of which was not visible.”

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He also tells us of those who, like Marcus, son of Clara, a quarter of a century later, found that “people of my age have grown up in an age when there was nothing, and have been brought up without believing in anything. They are at most in survival (… Most of them don’t even remember that there was the Berlin Wall and that the Soviets were our brothers. They don’t care about politics and don’t drink the stories of politicians that there will be a better future, they don’t even listen to them, and they look for it better for themselves, as much as they can. Those who stayed in Cuba They keep innovating, and the others, well, we’re gone, and there are a lot of us.”
Padura is able to reconnect these double threads and make them practical for a story, perhaps very skillful, in the sense that sometimes one gets the impression that chance or fate is a bit far away… Di Padura The Italian audience knows above all noir starring Mario Conde, and he A policeman who drinks to forget who would have liked to be a writer. Here the story is the story of a house, Fontanar’s house, where in January 1990 Clara and Darrow, a post on its publication, celebrate with a group of friends their first birthday, their thirtieth, but mainly for everyone, including peers and sons and daughters of the Cuban regime, all with university studies Behind them, they grew up believing in the idea of ​​a more just and equal society. However, that particular year is the last in a common life and faith: economic crisis, shattering dreams of youth, existential anxiety, means leaving, some to Spain, some to Argentina, who move to the United States… . Here, thirty years later, the meeting between Marcus, son of Clara, and Adela, daughter of Elisa, the latter the most fanatical and most determined to sever all ties with the past, will provoke a journey back, in search of roots as well as truth.

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What finally emerges from the novel, which can also be read as a story of love and atonement, and even as a psychological investigation (Badora misses nothing…) is precisely this feeling of mental exhaustion, the return. Yes, there is a loss of homeland, but no one ever thinks of returning: “For one reason or another they stopped believing, believing, or convincing others that they believed.” As for those who remained, and Padura is one of them after all, the underlying reason was that “in spite of everything, it was easier to survive than to rebuild”.

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