Adios Muchachos has it all
By Derryll White
Daniel Chavarria is a Uruguayan writer who has been published widely in Europe. I first ran into his work in Spain. Chavarria has lived an interesting and adventurous life working as a miner, model and museum guide before taking work in Cuba as a Latin and Greek translator. A Professor of Latin, Greek and Classical literature, he had a special interest in researching the origins and evolution of prostitution.
‘Adios Muchachos’ won the Edgar Allan Poe award in 1994. It is his first novel in English translation, very ably done by Carlos Lopez. His second novel in English, and one of his most celebrated, is ‘The Eve of Cybele’, about an illustrious Greek whore in the time of Pericles.
Chavarria is most definitely not a North American novelist, either in subject matter or approach, but his picaresque treatment of Cuba is definitely in sync with current political developments concerning that nation.
‘Adios Muchachos’ has it all – sex, humour and an exploration of Cuban cuisine both homestyle and haute. His principal character, Alicia, devoid of security, contrives to make herself a unique Cuban whore by the use of a bicycle that breaks down – often. She is very successful, looking after both her mother and herself. Chavarria lays out some of his thoughts on the virtues of communism while denouncing fascism at every opportunity.
The Cuban setting and revelations of Cuban everyday life make this humorous mystery of real interest to me. I had to work to keep the story going in my head sometimes, but Chavarria’s comments on identity and gender were enough to lure me on.
Excerpts from the novel:
WORKING LADIES – Wishing to make the most of their breasts, their ample buttocks, and their strong thighs, the hookers of Havana usually dress in a manner that might graciously be described as “minimal.” This blatant exhibit of their wares sometimes has a certain naïve charm. Then again, sometimes it is depressing. And sometimes it makes you want to laugh. And at other times – rarely – it makes you want to sample.
CUBAN ECONOMY – “It’s all his fault,” Margarita said, recalling her ex-husband with loathing, “and that bald prick Gorbachev, who screwed up everything.”
If the Soviet Union had not caved in, there would be no Special Period in Cuba. Alicia would have finished her studies at the university. She would certainly have gotten herself the right kind of husband: somebody in the nomen klatura, a technocrat, or maybe an artist, which had been her childhood dream.
But in 1994, when the crisis was affecting their stomachs, their feet, and even their minds, Alicia’s patriotism could stretch no further, so she decided to become a whore.
ARTIST – Between kisses and nibbles, Alicia bit her lips, sighed, turned her eyes. There was nothing false about her performance. She was a genuine artist, one who completely enjoyed and suffered every instant of creation. This was a woman for whom sex was not a profession, but a divine vocation, a celestial calling, her manifest destiny.
– Derryll White once wrote books but now chooses to read and write about them. When not reading he writes history for the web at www.basininstitute.org.