Banned in Cuba but celebrated throughout the Spanish-speaking world, this picaresque novel in stories chronicles the misadventures of Pedro Juan, a former Cuban journalist living from hand to mouth in the squalor of contemporary Havana, half disgusted and half fascinated by the depths to which he has sunk. Like the lives of so many of his neighbors in the crumbling, once-elegant apartment houses that line Havana's waterfront, Pedro Juan's days and nights have been reduced by the so-called special times -- the harsh recession that followed the Soviet Union's collapse -- to the struggle of surviving the daily grit through the escapist pursuit of sex. Pedro Juan scrapes by under the shadow of hunger -- all the while observing his lovers and friends, strangers on the street, and their suffering with an unsentimental, mocking, yet sympathetic eye.
|Edition description:||First Ecco Paperback Edition|
|Product dimensions:||5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.91(d)|
About the Author
Pedro Juan Gutiérrez is the author of several published works of poetry. He lives in Havana, where he devotes himself to writing and painting.
Read an Excerpt
New Things in My Life
Early that morning, there was a pink postcard sticking out of my mailbox, from Mark Pawson in London. In big letters he had written, “June 5, 1993, some bastard stole the front wheel of my bicycle.” A year later, and that business was still bothering him. I thought about the little club near Mark's apartment, where every night Rodolfo would strip and do a sexy dance while I banged out weird tropical-improvisational music on bongo drums, shaking rattles, making guttural noises, trying anything else I could think of. We had fun, drank free beer, and got paid twenty-five pounds a night. Too bad it couldn't have lasted longer. But black dancers were a hot commodity, and Rodolfo left for Liverpool to teach modern dance. I was broke, and I stayed at Mark's until I got bored and came back.
Now I was training myself to take nothing seriously. A man's allowed to make lots of small mistakes, and there's nothing wrong with that. But if the mistakes are big ones and they weigh him down, his only solution is to stop taking himself seriously. It's the only way to avoid suffering -- suffering, prolonged, can be fatal.
I stuck the postcard up behind the door, put on a tape of Armstrong's “Snake Rag,” felt much better, and stopped thinking. I don't have to think while I'm listening to music. But jazz like this cheers me up too and makes me feel like dancing. I had a cup of tea for breakfast, took a shit, read some gay poems by Allen Ginsberg, and was amazed by “Sphincter” and “Personals ad.” I hope my good old asshole holds out. ButI couldn't be amazed for long, because two very young friends of mine showed up, wanting to know if I thought it would be a good idea to launch a raft from Cabo San Antonio heading for Cabo Catoche, or whether it would be better to take off north directly for Miami. Those were the days of the exodus, the summer of '94. The day before, a girlfriend had called me to say, “What'll we do now that all the men and kids are leaving? It's going to be hard.” Things weren't like that, exactly. Lots of people were staying, the ones who couldn't live anywhere else.
Well, I've done a little sailing on the Gulf and I know that way's a trap. Showing them the map, I convinced them not to try for Mexico. And I went down to see their big six-person raft. It was a flimsy thing made of wood and rope lashed to three airplane tires. They were planning to take a flashlight, compass, and flares. I bought some slices of melon, went over to my ex-wife's house. We're good friends now. We get along best that way. She wasn't home. I ate some melon and left the rest. I like to leave tracks. I put the leftover slices in the fridge and got out fast. I was happy in that house for two years. It's not good for me to be there by myself.
Margarita lives nearby. We hadn't seen each other in a while. When I got there, she was washing clothes and sweating. She was glad to see me and she went to take a shower. We had been lovers on the sly -- sorry, I have to call it something -- for almost twenty years, and when we get together, first we fuck and then we have a nice relaxed conversation. So I wouldn't let her shower. I stripped her and ran my tongue all over her. She did the same: she stripped me and ran her tongue all over me. I was covered in sweat, too, from all the biking and the sun. She was getting healthier, putting weight back on. She wasn't all skin and bones the way she used to be. Her buttocks were firm, round, and solid again, even though she was forty-six. Black women are like that. All fiber and muscle, hardly any fat, clean skin, no zits. I couldn't resist the temptation, and after playing with her for a little while, after she had already come three times, I eased myself into her ass, very slowly, greasing myself well with cunt juice. Little by little. Pushing in and pulling out and fondling her clit with my hand. She was in agony, but she couldn't get enough. She was biting the pillow, but she pushed her ass up, begging me to get all the way in. She's fantastic, that woman. No one gets off the way she does. We were linked like that for a long time. When I pulled out, I was all smeared in shit, and it disgusted her. Not me. I have a strong sense of the absurd, and it keeps me on guard against that kind of thing. Sex isn't for the squeamish. Sex is an exchange of fluids, saliva, breath and smells, urine, semen, shit, sweat, microbes, bacteria. Or there is no sex. If it's just tenderness and ethereal spirituality, then it can never be more than a sterile parody of the real act. Nothing. We took a shower, and then we were ready to have coffee and talk. She wanted me to go with her to El Rincón. She had to keep a vow she made to San Lázaro and she asked me to go with her the next day. Really, she asked so sweetly I said I would. That's what I love about Cuban women -- there must be other women like them too, in America, maybe, or Asia -- they're so sweet you can never say no when they ask you for something. It's not that way with European women. European women are so cold...
Dirty Havana Trilogy. Copyright © by Pedro Juan Gutierrez. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Henry Millerish, but without the Francophile modernism: it's a visceral look at the slums of Havana in the mid 1990s. Memorable in fragments, because they are so dirty (obscene, with limits set by an odd intermittent propriety mainly about sexual pleasure; but also full of filth, stains, dirt, rubbish, smells, grit, grease, fluids). Are there limits to writing that is dirty in this way? Things it cannot take in, feelings it cannot record? There are certainly limits to what can be said in the short chapter form: it's as if Gutierrez is most afraid not of poverty or hopelessness but of staying with something, or someone, long enough to really start to think. His character says that several times, but it is said without reflection, naturally, and he speeds off to the next encounter.
According to my email from UPS it was left at my front door but I never got it. I sent a email to UPS about this but they never got back to me! J.T.Robinson
This book was amazing, the stories were gritty and real from the author who lived it. I read this book 3 times, and will gladly read it again. This book is a complitation of short stories of the writer's life in Cuba. It gives insight to the poverty that the people endure, but their heart is relentless. Stories involve sex, lust, poverty, witchcraft, and alot more. Mostly it shows how the people are just simply trying to get by in such an oppressive land. Loved, Loved, Loved this book and will highly recommend it to anyone and everyone. You will not be disappointed. Kudos to Pedro Juan for writing such an amazing novel, under such difficult circumstance. I will be purchasing more books from this writer.
Gutierrez has drawn a picture of Castro's true Cuba: one of hunger, pain, disillusionment and lawlessness within a controlled society. Pedro Juan's novel is not for the faint hearted. You are drawn, and capitvated by the bowels of life in a communist country. You were drawn into the web and held captive. I could not put this novel down.
Despite what the 'published' reviewers say, this is not an anti-communist treatise, nor is it a debased and underdeveloped character study. While presented as one man's experience as a Cuban in Cuba after the fall of the Soviet Union, it is a universally applicable portrayal of poverty in stricken times and the ends to which we all would go to eek out a little bit of happiness between the hours of misery. Naked, honest and definitely not for fans of 'empowering' fiction.
i thoroughly enjoyed this book. disturbed me and opened my eyes to what life is like for the masses in Cuba. also sexy in a very dirty degerative way and nothing is held back.