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This review is taken from PN Review 71, Volume 16 Number 3, January - February 1990.

BREUGHEL WAS RIGHT G. Cabrera Infante, View of Dawn in the Tropics, translated from the Spanish by Suzanne Jill Levine (Faber) £10.95
Beat Sterchi, Blösch, translated from the German by Michael Hofmann (Faber) £11.95

Cabrera Infante's striking book, first published in Spanish in 1974, consists of one hundred and seventeen prose episodes, descriptions or vignettes, varying in length from a single two-line sentence to a more leisurely three pages. These takes illustrate a version of Cuban history from the dawn of time to the 1970s. It is a version that emphasizes Man's inhumanity to Man and makes disturbing, even nauseating reading; Cabrera Infante's lapidary confidence is so arrestingly visioned, though, that his collations of horror, lyrical tranquillity, ironical wit, and the cold indifference of History add up to literature of a very high order.

Even in pre-history, imaging the birth of Cuba from the foam, Cabrera Infante is moved to write of 'a green wound that never heals'. With the conquistadores' annihilation of the Caribs he is on territory so bloody that he can best convey the monstrosity through the story of the Indian, dying at the stake, who replies to a priest that if there are Spaniards in heaven it will be better if he goes to hell. From this point on, things get worse. Rebels, comandantes and torturers people the pages. They kill and are killed, with guns and machetes. The fortunate die fast. The unfortunate die in as many ways as there are varieties of human cruelty. Like this:


They went back to the house and found one coming out of a water tank in the patio. He had been inside it all the ...


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