Nicely varied selections from 25 authors are organized by Havana-born novelist García (Monkey Hunting, p. 332, etc.) into sections titled after various indigenous dances (e.g., “Rumba,” “Mambo,” “Salsa”). Token excerpts from the poetry and “War Diaries” of 19th-century revolutionary José Martí are followed by material composed mostly since the 1959 Castro takeover. The poetry tends toward the florid or obscure (exceptions are Heberto Padilla’s Borgesian “Self-Portrait of the Other” and María Elena Cruz Valera’s witty “Love Story for Difficult Times”), and of the handful of nonfiction pieces, only an excerpt from Miguel Barnet’s earthy, gripping Biography of a Runaway Slave seems distinctive. Selections from novels by Alejo Carpentier, José Lezama Lima, and exact contemporary José Manuel Prieto (author of the Nabokovian Nocturnal Butterflies of the Russian Empire) are noteworthy, and of eight short stories included, the standouts are Calvert Casey’s gently humorous “The Walk” and journalist Ana Menéndez’s seriocomic portrayal of political exiles withering away in Miami, “In Cuba I Was a German Shepherd.”
An illuminating and altogether worthy addition to an excellent series.