In This Review

King of Cuba
King of Cuba
By Cristina García
Scribner, 2013, 256 pp
Purchase

The Cuban American novelist García tries her hand at political fiction, with only partial success. Neither pro-Castro Cubans nor the Miami exile community will be pleased with her portrayals of their aging archetypal macho men. In García’s imagination, the “King of Cuba,” an 89-year-old dictator modeled on Fidel Castro, is a narcissistic, manipulative, cruel tyrant: in one scene, he tempts prisoners on a hunger strike with an elaborate banquet. His mirror-image antagonist, in exile in Miami, is equally unappealing: bitter and obsessive, he fantasizes about killing the tyrant and practices his gun skills at a shooting range. Among their shared traits, the two old men fondly recall their numerous sexual exploits, and both struggle vainly against the betrayal of their youthful dreams and the depredations of their aging bodies. García can be devilishly witty and entertaining, but other Latin American authors have produced more finely drawn images of the fading caudillo. Another disappointment is that García’s portrait of a stagnant, sinking Cuba, gripped by political unrest, underplays the more hopeful present reality.