JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2003, VOL.3 NO.1
No siempre gana la muerte.
(Death Is Not Always the Winner)
tr. By Benigno Dou. U.S.: Pureplay Pr 2002. 271 p. ISBN 0-9714366-1-4. pap. $15. FIC
Review by Dolores M. Koch
Although more than 40 years have passed since Fidel Castro’s triumph in Cuba, some readers may still find Landau’s well-researched thriller controversial.
Inspired by the unusual story of an attorney who spent more than 18 years as Castro’s political prisoner, Landau, an American author and radio broadcaster, dedicated 10 years to researching the story. The resulting novel, the author’s first full-length book since his early triumph with Kissinger: The Uses of Power (1972), details the complex state of events that solidified Castro’s dictatorship in spite of the disillusionment and eventual opposition of some who had fought beside him.
The story centers on Rodrigo Núñez, a young attorney who becomes disenchanted as he watches Castro manipulate public opinion, turn failures into victories, destroy both enemies and friends, and open the door to Russia, even after promising to liberate his country from foreign domination. Together with other dissidents, Rodrigo gets involved in an undercover operation to assassinate Castro. But because the dissenters actively participated in the revolution, they get little outside support; both the U.S. government and the Cuban exile community distrust them. Also, many Cubans and other Latin Americans would prefer to preserve the image of Castro as romantic hero. In the end, the dissidents fail to manage Castro’s meticulously organized spy net, and in a climate of fear and repression many of the dictator’s best comandantes, but not Rodrigo, are executed or sent to jail.
A sharp observer of human nature, Landau includes incisive comments about the Cuban character, focusing on Rodrigo, his family, and his sexual relationships with women. He also analyzes Castro’s reluctance to call attention to his undeniable public relations victories over the United States so that he can maintain the world image of him as a victim.
Born in Caracas, translator Dou, also a writer (Luna rota, Editorial Planeta, 2002), moved to Cuba when he was 11, staying until he was 25. He creates a totally idiomatic rendering of Landau’s text, even incorporating such slang of the time as ñángara for “Commie.” Since a regime change in Cuba seems inevitable, this book will remain an indispensable source for understanding the political developments on the island. This impeccable translation is highly recommended for bookstores and for public and college libraries.
Dolores M. Koch, the Cuban-American writer, has translated to English two works by Reinaldo Arenas: Before Night Falls and The Doorman.
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