Sunday, August 5, 2018

Map Drawn By A Spy Paperback – August 29, 2017 by Guillermo Cabrera Infante (Author), Mark Fried (Translator) (Archipelago)

The phrase, “too little, too late” springs to mind when reading this book. The manuscript was discovered after the death of novelist Guillermo Cabrera Infante, a Cuban exile living in London. It’s done in the man-on-the-street, unfolding style of Isherwood’s “Goodbye to Berlin,” without the timeliness since the revolutionary events it speaks to took place 50 years ago.

“Map Drawn by a Spy” has a surreal feel to it – almost a languorously pace despite the tension of a person suddenly finding themselves behind enemy lines in the country of their birth. The contrast between his diplomatic life in Brussels is more implied than described – as if freedoms need no explanation – whereas the indignities, fear, and deprivations the main character finds in Havana are numerous and documented.

During his lifetime, Cabrera Infante was an outspoken critic of the Castro regime, so it doesn’t seem likely that he would have withheld publication out of concerns for the safety of his family and friends still living in Cuba. He also doesn’t strike me as an author who would forget about or neglect his work. Perhaps this was simply a writing exercise or working draft for some of his other ideas and writings. Perhaps it was never meant to be found and published. Or perhaps it was intended as a personal narrative for his then two young daughters, whom he was also able get out of Cuba. The publisher, Archipelago Books, lets the work stand on its own: there is no foreward, epilogue, editor’s notes, or comments from his children to frame this book.

It’s an interesting story, but given its delayed publication, it is not a groundbreaking work from this daring and original author.

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