The Palace of the White Skunks

Reinaldo Arenas, Author, Andrew Hurley, Translator Viking Books $21.95 (384p) ISBN 978-0-670-81510-4
Arenas's ( Singing from the Well ) stunning novel, set during the Cuban revolution, begins with the ominous figure of Death sitting in the yard of an impoverished rural family, spinning a bicycle wheel. In the course of the novel, God will make an appearance, as do familial ghosts, their presences in this stylistically rich, surrealistic narrative as important as those of any of the living participants. The life and death of young Fortunato, who joins the rebels and is tortured and executed by government forces, is told by a cacophony of voices, including those of his eccentric aunt, tyrannical grandfather, mischievous cousins and his own often anguished self. Fortunato, we learn, was raised almost as an orphan: his mother emigrated to North America; his father was unknown. His childhood, spent on a farm in the hill country, is not idyllic but far more pleasant than the nightmarish existence he leads when his grandparents move to town in order to sell fruit and vegetables to employees of a guava-paste factory. This venture is a disaster and the family sinks into even deeper poverty. As he enters his teens, Fortunato feels compelled to prove his masculinity via alcohol and women, and he earns a reputation as being half-crazed. His infatuation with the rebel cause and the price he pays for it are hauntingly described, bringing this explosive period in recent history uncomfortably close to the American reader. (Dec.)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1991
Release date: 01/01/1991
Paperback - 368 pages - 978-84-8310-156-8
Paperback - 356 pages - 978-0-14-009792-4
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