Text and Photos by Irina Echarry
HAVANA TIMES, Feb. 18 — It was 11:00 in the morning on Tuesday, February 15. Several people congregated around the Nicolas Guillen Hall waiting for the presentation of Leonardo Padura’s novel at the Havana Book Fair.
At about 12:30, someone began organizing people into a line by distributing tickets so that the majority could buy El hombre que amaba a los perros (The man who loved dogs) with no problems, with one person behind the other so that no one could cut in line.
Read a HT review of “El hombre que amaba a los perros.”
Gustavo looked surprised when asked why he wanted to buy the book: “I’ve read everything he’s written. I love his work. What I like about Padura is that I understand him deeply; he writes for all audiences, without minimizing anyone and with excellent quality.”
Yanelis is supposed to be working in another book presentation room, but now she’s standing in line so that she can keep an eye on the people in front of her and not miss her turn.
Anaisa admits: “I already read it, but it was borrowed. I want a copy of my own because it’s a good book that questions the socialist system. He discusses events that have been taboo for us or that have been presented to us in a poorly focused manner. It’s never too late to fill the lagoons of disinformation that have been imposed on us.”
Meanwhile, inside the room, the author presented the much desired book. He was responding to the questions of what motivated him to study Trotsky as a character, why he traced the route of his assassin and at the same time the reason that he devised a Cuban character who gradually untangles the story of those two men as well as his own.
The path of the novel is well marked: on one hand, there’s the exile imposed on Trotsky by Stalin in 1929 and his pilgrimage through Turkey, France, Norway and Mexico. On the other there’s the childhood of Ramon Mercader in Barcelona, his adventures during the Spanish Civil War, and his later experiences in Moscow and Paris.
This continues until the two men’s lives intertwine and they come together in Mexico, establishing the relationship of victim and murderer. Ivan, an unsuccessful Cuban writer knew Mercader when he lived in Cuba, and the narration of those encounters completes the plot, giving it a tinge of Cuban contemporaneity.
When concluding the presentation, a door opened. Those who were in the room could go and buy the book. Those who waited outside with their tickets in hand saw the others come out with the book, circled around and then return to the hall to wait in line so that the author would dedicate it.
Tony, a young literature fanatic, recognized that “when I was studying, a friend lent me a copy of Perfect Past because he knew I liked crime stories, and ever since then I haven’t missed reading anything by Padura. I’ve seen him improve with the passing of time and I find his incursions into the historical novel fascinating. Just like I think the work of Heredia is brilliant, I know I’m going to love this one.”
The rumor was that they would only be selling 400 copies, sometimes they said 600, but the case is that the immense majority of people interested in the book were left without knowing who the murderer of Trotsky was, what impelled this assassin, how he got into our country or what his life was like after the murder.
People who love Padura, who preferred to wait in line without hearing his presentation in order to guarantee themselves a copy of his novel, will have to wait to find the answer to the question that motivated him to write: “To make a revolution, is it necessary to kill a man?”