martes, 8 de julio de 2008

Havana Nocturne de T.J. English


In modern-day Havana, the remnants of the glamorous past are everywhere—the old hotel-casinos, vintage American cars, and flickering neon signs speak of a bygone era that is widely familiar and often romanticized, but little understood. In Havana Nocturne, T. J. English offers a riveting, multifaceted true tale of organized crime, political corruption, roaring nightlife, revolution, and international conflict that interweaves the dual stories of the Mob in Havana and the event that would overshadow it, the Cuban Revolution. As the Cuban people labored under a violently repressive regime throughout the 1950s, Mob leaders Meyer Lansky and Charles "Lucky" Luciano turned their eye to Havana. To them, Cuba was the ultimate dream, the greatest hope for the future of the American Mob in the post-Prohibition years of intensified government crackdowns. But when it came time to make their move, it was Lansky, the brilliant Jewish mobster, who reigned supreme. Having cultivated strong ties with the Cuban government and in particular the brutal dictator Fulgencio Batista, Lansky brought key mobsters to Havana to put his ambitious business plans in motion. Before long, the Mob, with Batista's corrupt government in its pocket, owned the biggest luxury hotels and casinos in Havana, launching an unprecedented tourism boom complete with the most lavish entertainment, the world's biggest celebrities, the most beautiful women, and gambling galore. But their dreams collided with those of Fidel Castro, Che Guevara, and others who would lead the country's disenfranchised to overthrow their corrupt government and its foreign partners—an epic cultural battle that English captures in all its sexy, decadent, ugly glory.


The mob owned what??? Just by reading the excerpt above, one gets the impression that in his desire to justify the Revolution as a response to our Sodom and Gomorrah-like Capitalist milieu, English throws the baby with the baby water (with "decadence" and "excess" paying the price) while righteousness and redemption are embodied by the Great Inquisitors Fidel and Ché. If the blurb rightly conveys the author's goal, I would have to disagree with English's hyperbolic assessment (even a critical book on 1950's Havana, Cabrera Infante's Tres TristesTigres, would refrain from such a cliché). Then, I find a review of the book here, with a reader's comment:

Your piece demonstrates exactly what I feared when I first heard about this book. I was afraid that it was either inaccurate or skewed so that the reader would come away with the wrong impression. The mob did not own Cuba. It did not even own Havana. Whatever part of the capital they controlled in whatever form with whatever government complicity was but a small portion of a larger country. To perpetuate the myth popularized by the Godfather does a disservice to the truth. As to your comment about those good old boys Che and Castro, it is, perhaps, not the wisest thing to minimize, distort, and make light of a movement and situation that has caused seemingly endless suffering to millions.


La presentación de Havana Nocturne es el 14 de julio en Books and Books en Coral Gables, a las 8pm.