Pig's Foot: A Novel

Pig's Foot: A Novel

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by Carlos Acosta
     
 

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Oscar Mandinga, great-grandchild of the founders of a small hamlet of wooden shacks and red earth deep in the Cuban hinterland, is a sardonic teller of tales—some taller than others—of slavery, revolution, family secrets, love, and identity, spanning four generations.

But one day Oscar wakes to find himself utterly alone in the world. As the sole

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Overview

Oscar Mandinga, great-grandchild of the founders of a small hamlet of wooden shacks and red earth deep in the Cuban hinterland, is a sardonic teller of tales—some taller than others—of slavery, revolution, family secrets, love, and identity, spanning four generations.

But one day Oscar wakes to find himself utterly alone in the world. As the sole descendant of his family line, he is not sure what to do or where he should go, but in the midst of this uncertainty, he holds fast to what his grandfather always told him: "No man knows who he is until he knows his past, his history, the history of his country."

As Oscar sets out to find his ancestral village of Pata de Puerco and the meaning of the magical pig's-foot amulet he has inherited, the search for his country's hidden history becomes entangled with his search for the truth about himself and his family.

Ambitious in scope yet intimate in tone, full of dark comedy, magical history, and startling revelations, Pig's Foot is a dazzling evocation of Cuba's tumultuous history, and a spell-binding debut.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
10/21/2013
Acclaimed Cuban-born dancer Acosta’s debut novel, following his memoir No Way Home, imaginatively records the history of one small, mythical town and its colorful inhabitants, evoking Gabriel García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude. The novel is narrated by Oscar Mandinga, who was born in a hamlet found on no map, “a place called Pig’s Foot–Pata de Puerco.” He tells of the town’s founding by two friends, his great-grandfather Oscar and Jose, who rise out of slavery together. They marry sisters Malena and Betina, respectively, beginning the unraveling thread of ancestry which provides the novel with its stories; of moms who die in childbirth and dads who commit suicide in solidarity; sons raised by false fathers; and brothers falling in love with sisters. Along the way, the narrator’s father, Malecio, a precociously gifted architect as a young man, travels the world and invents the Art Deco style. When the story winds its way back to the present, it turns in on itself, and suggests that after the magic must follow the realism. Not simply a fable, yet unfettered by facts, Acosta’s novel affirms with engaging force that truth lies in storytelling. Agent: Felicity Bryan, Felicity Bryan Associates. (Jan.)
Kirkus Reviews
2013-10-06
Ballet star Acosta's debut novel follows a Cuban family from slavery days to modern Havana. Pata de Puerco (Pig's Foot) is the name of the tiny village founded by friends Oscar and José, fresh from their victory in a slave revolt. Oscar, whose origins are a pygmy tribe, the Korticos, and José, a Mandinga, forge a bond despite tribal rivalry, marry and start families. Unfortunately, Oscar is soon beset by tragedy--his wife Malena dies giving birth to son Benicio, and Oscar kills himself. Benicio is raised by José and his wife, Betina, alongside their son Melecio and daughter Geru. Melecio, a gifted poet, is taken into the household of rum baron Emilio Bacardi to be educated. As Benicio grows, he resembles Oscar less and less, mostly since he is much larger in stature. In fact, he resembles, in size and temperament, the village outcast, an ornery giant known as El Mozambique. Thereby hangs a tale, of course. The return of Melecio and Benicio's attraction to his "sister" Geru cause further complications, and eventually, Benicio and Geru depart for Havana. Here, the feisty narrator, Oscar Mandinga, a descendant of Benicio and Geru, whom he refers to, inaccurately it emerges, as his grandparents, takes over the story. Under suspicion for his political cynicism, Oscar undergoes interrogation at the hands of "whiteshirts" (the Cuban Ku Klux Klan) and embodies the contrast between the apathy and disillusion of young Cubans today and the revolutionary zeal of elders like Benicio and Geru, who witnessed and welcomed the advent of Castro. The shift in tone between the idyll of Pata de Puerco, with its storytellers, wise women, magic amulets and rustic whimsy, and the realities of dystopian Havana are almost too jarring for this relatively short book to encompass. Other than latter-day Oscar, who narrates what is essentially a frame story, no clear protagonist emerges to lend direction to this episodic rags-to-riches-to rags tale. The pyrotechnics of Acosta's writing would benefit from a more tightly choreographed structure.
From the Publisher

“Imaginatively records the history of one small, mythical town and its colorful inhabitants, evoking Gabriel Garcia Marquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude . . . Acosta's novel affirms with engaging force that truth lies in storytelling.” —Publishers Weekly

“A wild, heady flight of imagination . . . Acosta makes good use of his natural understanding of sequence and grace and suspense.” —The Guardian

“This knockabout epic marks an impressive further stage in Acosta's emergence as a writer.” —The Independent

“Richly entertaining . . . Often hilarious . . . Acosta is a natural storyteller.” —The Irish Times

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781620400814
Publisher:
Bloomsbury USA
Publication date:
01/14/2014
Pages:
352
Product dimensions:
5.90(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.30(d)

Related Subjects

Meet the Author

Carlos Acosta was born in Havana in 1973 and trained at the Cuban National Ballet School. He has been a principal at the English National Ballet, the Houston Ballet, the American Ballet Theatre, and the Royal Ballet, and has danced as a guest artist all over the world, winning numerous awards. He is the author of the memoir No Way Home.

Frank Wynne has won four major prizes for his translations, including the IMPAC, the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize, and the Scott Moncrieff Prize.

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Pig's Foot: A Novel 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago