PERSONA NON GRATA by Jorge Edwards

PERSONA NON GRATA

A Memoir of Disenchantment with the Cuban Revolution
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 A genuine literary treasure from Latin America's recent past, which--though originally published in 1973 in Spain and elsewhere- -is just now available in a gracefully translated US edition, with a laudatory preface by Octavio Paz. Posted to Cuba as an interim envoy in late 1970 when Chile's Salvador Allende defied the OAS and resumed formal relations with Cuba, novelist/short-story writer Edwards spent nearly four months representing Chile at what proved to be a critical juncture in Cuba's rule by Fidel Castro. While a committed man of the left, the author quickly concluded that Cuba's revolution was not the socialist idyll accepted by his fellow Chilean intellectuals, and he began to fear for the future of his homeland as well. Beset by obtrusive minders, Edwards (who on his first night in Cuba had talked and drunk with Fidel into the wee hours) almost immediately incurred his host's wrath by establishing contact with some of the regime's most implacably critical dissidents, notably poet Heberto Padilla (subsequently imprisoned on charges of treason). More the journal of an uncommonly decent idealist than an aggrieved dialectician's plaint, the author's wide-ranging recollections of his Cuban sojourn illuminate rather than censure or damn the horrors of dictatorships. Although Edwards did not personally witness atrocities, his recall of encounters with Castro aboard a Chilean training ship and at official functions conveys the message of menace with greater force than any catalogue of brutalities. The same holds true for the subtly threatening atmosphere that made Havana's diplomatic community a hotbed of paranoia. When his tour was over, Edwards moved on to Paris, where, as an aide to ambassador Pablo Neruda, he gained further perspective on abortive revolution in Chile, as well as in Cuba. A cultivated humanist's marvelously readable memoir of revolution's hard realities, which 20 years later has appeal for readers of almost any political persuasion.

Pub Date: Aug. 30th, 1993
ISBN: 1-55778-576-7
Page count: 336pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1st, 1993