A very short novel, in 33 chapters, written by the grandson of Che Guevara, who tragically died at the age of 40. This is a highly critical look at Cuban society, following the life of a Cuban bureaucrat as he takes life one day at a time with a sense of hopeless repetitiveness.
To him, the nation is akin to a scratched record, each day a repetition, day in, day out, month after month, year after year. Lack of food, recurring blackouts, suspicious neighbors, aging true believers of the revolution, the nameless protagonist spends his free time photographing spontaneous demonstrations and young people trying to escape the island on makeshift rafts. With each day he grows more and more disillusioned with life until one day he refuses to take part in informing on those desperately trying to escape. He is one of many who has become disillusioned with the ideals of Castro’s revolution.
The writing is lean, sparse, each chapter at times mirroring a short track of an album that has an all encompassing theme. One feels the dread, the repetition, the boredom and disillusion as he tries to get by each day trying to reconcile all that he had once believed with what he actually sees around him. There’s an existential streak running through the narrative, the feeling that life has no meaning, no purpose; that each of his fellow countrymen are ‘scratched records’, endlessly repeating their day to day existence.
The novel is an indictment of the Cuban Revolution as a whole, it’s failure known to nearly everyone but never uttered aloud except those brave enough to say they’ve had enough, those willing to risk their lives by trying to escape. Reading it is like a sharp jab to the jaw and a testament to how powerful novels can say so much with so few words. Highly recommended.
Translated by Howard Curtis