Those Cubans who have stayed behind and endured—and endurance has certainly been required!—the vagaries and adversities of the Cuban post-revolutionary experience tend to write from the point of view of within, inside, whereas these other writers tend to offer their readers a view, informed as it may be, from without, looking in, and back at the island.
T.J. English’s Havana Nocturne is not only the story suggested in the subtitle—How the Mob Owned Cuba…and Then Lost It to the Revolution—but the story of how Havana in particular came to earn its reputation as ‘sin city’ during the seven-year U.S.-backed dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista. And yet the book provides much more than even this. English offers readers information ranging from the origins of The Commission founded by Lucky Luciano and the average schooling (and with it the ‘thug’ nature) of American mobsters, to the “ominous mood in the air”SEE DETAILS
These bells of doom sound often in the history of American foreign policy and if anyone doubts this they could start by reading Bitter Fruit, the extremely well-documented story of the 1954 American conceived, inspired, financed, led and dictated coup in Guatemala that set a precedent for future U.S. efforts at ‘regime change’ throughout the world.
It isn’t as if no dark currents course through this novel. Instead, it’s as if Greene, while allowing brief glimpses of the background for his ‘entertainment’ manages to always deftly turn his readers’ attention away from the dangers lurking in the bush.
The measure of a great novel is its resonance in the reader. Sometimes the reader remembers and never forgets very specific details. But when a sense of the whole story and the experience of reading that story endures, long after the book has been finished and put away on the shelf, long after more forgettable books have been read and replaced on those same shelves, that story has demonstrated its achievement: to live on in the life and imagination of the reader, the only place where any story ever matters.