MEA CUBA

While singularly informative, this volume of autobiographically oriented sketches of recent Cuban history and culture is, in the end, evasive. Expatriate Cuban novelist Cabrera Infante (Infante's Inferno, 1984, etc.), a London resident since his 1965 defection, offers an omnibus collection of occasional pieces on topics ranging from the revolutionary painting of Jacques-Louis David to the fantastic possibilities of a world without Columbus. But the common thread here is Cuban politics and culture. Introductory passages suggest that Cabrera Infante might provide an overview of the bleak era since Castro's ascension to power. What emerges instead is a picture of Latin American literary life, with a dissident twist. Memories of the persecution that writers, and particularly gay writers like Reinaldo Arenas, suffered under Castro reveal the tragic dimensions of the revolution's betrayal of Cuba's intelligentsia. Strong pieces investigate how such foreign artists as Lorca, Hemingway, and Walker Evans encountered Cuba. Cabrera Infante's picture of the decadent Batista regime is revealing, and he shares intriguing close-up vignettes of Castro's imperious ways. But much material appears more than once, while gaps remain visible in the overall story. Although the author was a Castro functionary in the 1960s, he leaves the details of his ideological evolution vague. Indeed, except for some introductory remarks on the exile's sense of guilt—hence the ``mea culpa'' echo in his title—Cabrera Infante never reckons with the personal impact on him of the Cuban revolution's souring. His attempts to maintain a humorous tone further shield him from the reader. Incessant wordplay, as in section titles like ``Hey Cuba, Hecuba?'' and ``Castro's Convertible,'' undercuts the seriousness with which he would confront the ``Castroenteritis'' gripping his nation. One could never wish for Cabrera Infante to lapse into silence. Would it be too much to ask of this brilliant exile that he provide the kind of profound account of Castro's Cuba that only he could give—and that he restrain his punning?

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1994

ISBN: 0-374-20497-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1994

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NUTCRACKER

This is not the Nutcracker sweet, as passed on by Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa. No, this is the original Hoffmann tale of 1816, in which the froth of Christmas revelry occasionally parts to let the dark underside of childhood fantasies and fears peek through. The boundaries between dream and reality fade, just as Godfather Drosselmeier, the Nutcracker's creator, is seen as alternately sinister and jolly. And Italian artist Roberto Innocenti gives an errily realistic air to Marie's dreams, in richly detailed illustrations touched by a mysterious light. A beautiful version of this classic tale, which will captivate adults and children alike. (Nutcracker; $35.00; Oct. 28, 1996; 136 pp.; 0-15-100227-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100227-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996

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IN MY PLACE

From the national correspondent for PBS's MacNeil-Lehrer Newshour: a moving memoir of her youth in the Deep South and her role in desegregating the Univ. of Georgia. The eldest daughter of an army chaplain, Hunter-Gault was born in what she calls the ``first of many places that I would call `my place' ''—the small village of Due West, tucked away in a remote little corner of South Carolina. While her father served in Korea, Hunter-Gault and her mother moved first to Covington, Georgia, and then to Atlanta. In ``L.A.'' (lovely Atlanta), surrounded by her loving family and a close-knit black community, the author enjoyed a happy childhood participating in activities at church and at school, where her intellectual and leadership abilities soon were noticed by both faculty and peers. In high school, Hunter-Gault found herself studying the ``comic-strip character Brenda Starr as I might have studied a journalism textbook, had there been one.'' Determined to be a journalist, she applied to several colleges—all outside of Georgia, for ``to discourage the possibility that a black student would even think of applying to one of those white schools, the state provided money for black students'' to study out of state. Accepted at Michigan's Wayne State, the author was encouraged by local civil-rights leaders to apply, along with another classmate, to the Univ. of Georgia as well. Her application became a test of changing racial attitudes, as well as of the growing strength of the civil-rights movement in the South, and Gault became a national figure as she braved an onslaught of hostilities and harassment to become the first black woman to attend the university. A remarkably generous, fair-minded account of overcoming some of the biggest, and most intractable, obstacles ever deployed by southern racists. (Photographs—not seen.)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-374-17563-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1992

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