El Nino de Luto y el Cocinero del Papa = The Child in Mourning and the Pope's Cook

J. J. Armas Marcelo, Author, Marcelo Armas, Author Alfaguara $26.95 (342p) ISBN 978-84-204-4260-0
Armas Marcelo, who first fictionalized ""the ruinous sanctuary of Havana"" in Asi en el Cielo como en la Habana (In Heaven as It Is in Havana, Alfaguara, 1998), returns to the city where ""nothing is what it seems"" in his latest novel. The unsolved murder of an aging gay man, Diosmediante Malaspina, and Castro's cynical manipulation of the pope's historic visit to Cuba provide a plot that is secondary to a relentless diatribe against ""the strong man"" and Cuba's new oligarchs. Angelo Ferri, the pope's cook, who opens a restaurant in Havana, and Diosmediante (""sorrow's child"") are victimized when they fail to recognize their powerlessness in a country where the promise of change remains hopelessly unfulfilled. The novel's main characters, members of the social elite, seek refuge from the regime by listening to Schubert and Maria Callas. Diosmediante remains faithful to Catholicism in spite of ""his problem"": the anonymous narrator refuses to address the issue of sexuality except through euphemisms. Neither Diosmediante's religious fervor nor Ferri's initial optimism save them from the deteriorating Revolution. Spaniard Armas Marcelo evinces an intimate knowledge of Havana's social geography. However, while exiled Cubans such as Guillermo Cabrera Infante write about the city with affectionate nostalgia, Armas Marcelo looks cruelly on Havana, leading the reader to wonder whether Cuba's reality has eluded him as well. Recommended for public and academic libraries and bookstores in Cuban markets. Joseph Delgado-Figueroa, Columbia, SC
Reviewed on: 10/22/2001
Release date: 10/01/2001
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