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In the Cold of the Malecon
     

In the Cold of the Malecon

by Antonio José Ponte, Cola Franzen (Translator), Dick Cluster (Translator)
 

In these renegade stories, set in Cuba during the hard times following the collapse of the Soviet Union, people go to work only to find that their jobs no longer exist. They joke and tell stories from the past, live aimlessly, uncertain about what the future holds. While living in this state of suspension, Ponte's dynamic characters create their own startling

Overview

In these renegade stories, set in Cuba during the hard times following the collapse of the Soviet Union, people go to work only to find that their jobs no longer exist. They joke and tell stories from the past, live aimlessly, uncertain about what the future holds. While living in this state of suspension, Ponte's dynamic characters create their own startling worlds.

Departing from both the utopian-political and the romantic-baroque styles of past Cuban literature, Ponte deftly sketches a picture of a contemporary Cuba that is very different from the stereotype of Caribbean life, full of music and dance and colorful celebration. An old man and a six-year-old prodigy have a rendezvous to play chess at a forlorn railroad station. Randomly riding trains, a woman keeps company with a strange assembly of men. An unemployed historian falls in love with an enigmatic astrologer, and the two live out their tragedy in the streets of Havana as homeless vagrants. A father and son take an aimless stroll after lunch to see the whores along the Malecón, Havana's seaside promenade. A young man, one of the last Cuban students to go to the Soviet Union on a foreign-study program, returns to Havana, where he explores his identity-looking at childhood photos with his grandfather, spending time with old friends, and obsessively seeking news of a woman he had known and loved in Russia. In a style both lucid and translucent, Ponte shapes intricate stories of self-discovery and metaphysical revelation in spare and allusive prose.

About the Authors

Antonio José Ponte was born in 1964 in Matanzas, Cuba, and studied at the University of Havana. He worked for some years as an engineer, and then as a screenwriter. In addition to writing short stories and fiction, Ponte has published prize-winning collections of poetry and essays. His work has been published in France, Germany, and Spain. This is his first book to be published in the United States.

Cola Franzen is the translator of over twenty books, including Poems of Arab Andalusia, Dreams of the Abandoned Seducer by Alicia Borinsky, and Horses in the Air by Jorge Guillén (recipient of the Academy of American Poets Harold Morton Landon Translation Award 2000).

Review

"In his first book to be published in the U.S., Ponte gives readers a short collection of six elliptical stories from inside the Cuban revolutionary experience, closer in spirit to the fiction of Eastern European dissidents than to that of Caribbean fabulists. Unlike exiled writers who see the island as either a mythical homeland or a political cause, Ponte paints a picture that will strike the U.S. reader as surreal in its simplicity." —Publisher's Weekly

Ponte raises unease to an art, stripping Cuban spirituality to the bone. His work is so quiet that one can begin to hear the real dynamics, usually just out of reach." —Elizabeth Hanley, Partisan Review

Editorial Reviews

San Antonio Express News
Ponte gives us a different view of Cuba with his first book to be published in the United States. Elliptical stories from inside the Cuban revolutionary experience paint a portrait surreal in its simplicity. A gem of insight into contemporary Cuba.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In his first book to be published in the U.S., Ponte gives readers a short collection of six elliptical stories from inside the Cuban revolutionary experience, closer in spirit to the fiction of Eastern European dissidents than to that of Caribbean fabulists. Unlike exiled writers who see the island as either a mythical homeland or a political cause, Ponte paints a picture that will strike the U.S. reader as surreal in its simplicity. In "Coming," Cuban students reluctant to return to the island from their college experiences in Russia arrive to find that there is now no need for their newly acquired language skills: they are the last of a generation even as they embark upon their new lives. "Like coffee," Ponte writes in "Station H," the conversation in an isolated train station "tries to squeeze as much juice as possible from a very few things," which is true of Ponte's stories in general. Incidental details--the departure of a train, the memory of an untranslated phrase in an unknown language--take on accumulated power throughout these tales, yet never quite become symbolic of anything in particular. But the text is also supplied with powerful metaphors. When electricity is shunted from one neighborhood to the next in "Heart of Skitalietz," a character says, "I've had the security of knowing that another someone like me, another me in some illuminated part of this same city, does things for me, lives my life." Cool, assured and quietly insightful, these tales provide rare glimpses into a Cuba often lost behind newspaper headlines. (Oct.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
This collection of six short stories presents stark, ironic views of life in contemporary Cuba, an island of food shortages, blackouts, drab apartments, and isolated, seemingly purposeless individuals. At the Kafkaesque Railroad Station H, in the middle of nowhere, an elderly man and a seven-year-old boy never connect for a chess game. A young man, one of the last Cuban students to study in the Soviet Union, spends weeks looking at old family photographs, all the while seeking news of a woman he had loved in Russia. In the final story, a historian falls in love with a terminally ill astrologer who can only divine the past, and together they wander Havana's streets. Born in 1964 in Matanzas, east of Havana, the award-winning Ponte represents the new wave of Cuban writers and poets. This is his first fiction to be translated into English; U.S. readers should look forward to seeing more of his elegant prose.--Mary Margaret Benson, Linfield Coll. Lib., McMinnville, OR Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Elizabeth Hanly
Ponte raises unease to an art, stripping Cuban spirituality to the bone. His work is so quiet that one can begin to hear the real dynamics, usually just out of reach.
Partisan Review

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780872863743
Publisher:
City Lights Books
Publication date:
01/01/2001
Pages:
152
Product dimensions:
5.00(w) x 7.40(h) x 0.40(d)

What People are Saying About This

Christopher Sawyer-Laucanno
These riveting stories reveal the unreal, yet very surreal world of contemporary Cuba. This isn’t magic realism. This is realistic magic.

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