cover image The Man Who Loved Dogs

The Man Who Loved Dogs

Leonardo Padura, trans. from the Spanish by Anna Kushner. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $35 (576p) ISBN 978-0-374-20174-6

The man who loved dogs, in Cuban author Padura’s (Havana Gold) epic novel, is Jaime Lopez, an elderly Spaniard living in ’70s Havana who claims to have been a friend of the man who assassinated Leon Trotsky in Mexico in 1940. An accomplished braiding of history and fiction, the novel follows three attenuated strands. The first is the story of Iván Cárdenas Maturell, a politically incorrect Cuban writer who befriends the dog-loving Lopez. The second is an account of Trotsky’s life in exile, from Turkey and France to Norway, and, finally, Mexico, where he’s welcomed by his good friends, Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera. And the third traces the radicalization of Ramón Mercader, who joins the Communist Party in Spain in the ’30s and is trained as a Soviet assassin. The novel dramatizes the long, slow collision course of Trotsky and Mercader. It also details Ivan’s relationship with Lopez and the ultimate revelation about his identity. Padura’s novel encompasses nothing less than a history of international communism after the 1917 Revolution. The story goes from the scorched earth of Spain in the 1930s, to the political hotbed that was Mexico in the 1940s, to Moscow during the Prague Summer of 1968, to Havana from the ’70s to the near present, where we learn of Ivan’s ultimate ironic fate, leaving the reader with the exhilarating feeling of having just experienced three entire lives. (Jan.)