Leon Trotsky, Padura and Me

Daisy Valera 

"The Man Who Loved Dogs" by Leonardo Padura.

Leonardo Padura’s work came into my life almost at the end of 2005, when my first year university class on mathematical analysis elbowed out my very old habit of reading one book after another.

Anton Arrufat’s La noche del aguafiestas and Padura’s tetralogy Cuatro Estaciones were the sole books I could read in six months.

I was captivated by Mario Conde (the main character in the four-novel series by Padura) but I wasn’t interested in continuing with the crime stories dealt with in several Cuban novels or in Leonardo’s other works.

Trotsky appeared later, pregnant with sense, reminding me of passages and images from my childhood: those from books by the Mir and Moscow publishing houses, and the albums of photos of Lenin that once glowed in the courtyard of my elementary school.

But Trotsky’s works especially filled me with arguments during my reality as a university student anxious for answers and solutions.

Trotsky cured me of indifference and filled in the holes in the words “socialism,” “communism” and “revolution.”

Those were words that for me had been ripped apart years earlier by failed experiences and nauseating speeches.

I rushed to get his books and in which it wasn’t difficult to conclude that his story was partly my own – brimful of betrayed revolutions, purges and bureaucrats.

Two years ago I found out that Padura had written a book that had Trotsky as one of its characters. I was astonished.  Prior to that, I had neatly categorized him as a writer of detective novels.

Leonardo Padura at a Havana book signing.

But my astonishment had other sources.  In the first place there was the fact that Leon Trotsky is absent in modern history books that are taught in Cuba.  He has been erased, just like Soviet Stalinism erased him.

I was also astonished because what still rings in my ears is the word used by my military instructor in my Defense Preparation course who branded Leon Trotsky as a “traitor” in front of a classroom full of students at my university.

Conscious that the myth of “Trotsky the renegade” is still alive in the minds of many people, I saw the presentation that Padura made of his book on Leon’s murderer delivered at the Casa de las Americas before a packed hall.

Today I finished reading the book.  The story that he tells doesn’t bother me, I already knew it.

The publication of El hombre que amaba a los perros (The Man Who Loved Dogs) reminds us about part of our history from when our principal ally was the USSR and we danced to the beat of a Russian polka.

Leonardo Padura’s book is also a way of resuscitating Trotsky by presenting to Cubans the story of a person who was concerned about the workers of the world.

It reveals a man who spoke out against the crimes and abuses of power perpetrated by the Stalinist bureaucracy, but the book also proposes alternatives to revive a decadent society.

Daisy Valera

Daisy Valera:Soil scientist and blogger. I write from Mexico City, where Havana sometimes becomes so small that it disappears. However in others, the Cuban capital is a city so past and present that it steals your breath.

10 thoughts on “Leon Trotsky, Padura and Me

  • March 18, 2018 at 10:29 pm

    I believe you are talking about my sister Eva Chertov who was the daughter of Morris and Pearl Chertov. She moved to Cuba after the revolution, was married to a Cuban but did not have any children. She returned to the US for personal reasons and to continue political work as a member of the Socialist Workers Party until her death in 2011.

  • August 14, 2011 at 6:36 pm

    Michael: The person you are referring to is Eva Chertov. I knew her slightly. I wouldn’t say she was “embittered” by her experience in Cuba. She did have criticisms, for instance, opposing the persecution of gays and the jailing of Heberto Padilla (this was the late ’60s, when “Stalinism” was at its apex in Cuba), but she remained a socialist to the end. I’m sorry to report that she recently died of cancer

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