Books by Ernesto Mestre

THE LAZARUS RUMBA by Ernesto Mestre
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: June 23, 1999

The enormous influence of Gabriel Garc°a M†rquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude on Latin American literature bears its finest fruit so far in this stunning exploration of the Castro Revolution's roots, character, and consequences. In a dizzyingly complex narrative that traces more than 50 fully realized characters, Mestre, a Cuban-born writer living in the US, concentrates on three: Alicia Lucientes, whose wealthy family falls under suspicion of betraying Revolutionary principles; her husband Julio Cesar Cruz, a former Castro "guerrillero" falsely accused of counter-revolutionary activity and executed; and a passionate young leftist named Joshua, who is reputedly Castro's illegitimate son and whose visionary dream of "the republic of the Newer Man" is realized with horrific irony. Other important figures include Hector Daluz (Alicia's cousin), a circus acrobat whose body bears the physical marks of his incestuous love for his twin brother Juanito; Father Gonzalo, a priest whose life is fatefully entwined with that of the Lucientes family; female revolutionary La Vieja and gluttonous, vindictive police captain El Rubio; even a famed fighting cock named Atila and El Rubio's monstrous mastiff Thomas del Aquino (creatures respectively embodying Cuban machismo and that "degeneration from man to beast" by which the Revolution's lofty egalitarian principles are repeatedly compromised). There's even an apparent authorial surrogate: the pediatrician Mestre "charged and convicted of sixteen counterrevolutionary crimes" that include "his unaccented fluidity in [sic] the English language . . . and his arrogant and gross display of his medical degree from the yanqui University of Chicago." Seldom has the folly of utopian dreaming been dramatized with such fine frenzied ingenuity. Mestre's overall theme and thrust may feel familiar (in addition to Garc°a M†rquez's, the presence of Isabel Allende's The House of the Spirits lies behind it), but his gifts for hyperbolic, though intensely realistic, character creation and brilliant narrative momentum are his own. Read full book review >