A childhood in a privileged household in 1950s Havana was joyous and cruel, like any other-but with certain differences. The neighbour's monkey was liable to escape and run across your roof. Surfing was conducted by driving cars across the breakwater. Lizards and firecrackers made frequent contact. Carlos Eire's childhood was a little different from most. His father was convinced he had been Louis XVI in a past life. At school, classmates with fathers in the Batista government were attended by chauffeurs and bodyguards. At a home crammed with artifacts and paintings, portraits of Jesus spoke to him in dreams and nightmares. Then, in January 1959, the world changes: Batista is suddenly gone, a cigar-smoking guerrilla has taken his place, and Christmas is cancelled. The echo of firing squads is everywhere. And, one by one, the author's schoolmates begin to disappear-spirited away to the United States. Carlos will end up there himself, without his parents, never to see his father again.
Narrated with the urgency of a confession, WAITING FOR SNOW IN HAVANA is both an ode to a paradise lost and an exorcism. More than that, it captures the terrible beauty of those times in our lives when we are certain we have died-and then are somehow, miraculously, reborn.
"Metaphors matter to me, especially perfect ones," Yale historian Eire writes in this beautifully fashioned memoir, as he recounts one of many wonderfully vibrant stories from his boyhood in 1950s Havana. As imaginatively wrought as the finest piece of fiction, the book abounds with magical interpretations of ordinary boyhood events playing in a friend's backyard is like a perilous journey through the jungle; setting off firecrackers becomes a lyrical, cosmic opera; a child's birthday party turns into a phantasmagoria of American pop cultural icons. Taking his cue from his father, a man with "a very fertile, nearly inexhaustible imagination, totally dedicated to inventing past lives," Eire looks beyond the literal to see the mythological themes inherent in the epic struggle for identity that each of our lives represents.Into this fantastic idyll comes Castro "Beelzebub, Herod, and the Seven-Headed Beast of the Apocalypse rolled into one" overthrowing the Batista regime at the very end of 1958 and sweeping away everything that the author holds dear. A world that had been bursting with complicated, colorful meaning is replaced with the monotony of Castro's rhetoric and terrorizing "reform." Symbols of Jesus that had once provided spiritual enlightenment by popping up in the author's premonitions and dreams were now literally being demolished and destroyed by a government that has outlawed religion. The final cataclysm comes when Eire and his brother, still young boys, are shipped off to the United States to seek safety and a better life (another paradise, perhaps). They never see their father again.As painful as Eire's journey has been, his ability to see tragedy and suffering as a constant source of redemption is what makes this book so powerful. Where his father believed that we live many lives in different bodies, Eire sees his own life as a series of deaths within the same body. "Dying can be beautiful," he writes, "And waking up is even more beautiful. Even when the world has changed." Taking his cue from his beloved Jesus, the author believes that we repeatedly die for our sins and are reborn into a new awareness of paradise. How fortunate for readers, then, that by way of Eire's "confessions," they too will be able to renew their souls through his transcendent words. BOMC, QPB alternates.
Customer ReviewsSee All
I really enjoyed this book. Fun and easy reading but also very interesting. I highly recommend it.