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Hispanic Magazine - January / February 2005 Issue

The Endless Search by Patricia Maldonado

A Bridge in Darkness Cover A Bridge in Darkness, by Carlos Victoria, translation to English by David Landau; 2005 Pureplay Press; 191 pages. Fiction.

We’re always on some kind of search: The search for meaning in life, the search for love, the search for identity, the search for happiness. Carlos Victoria’s A Bridge in Darkness is about that search and the dark winding road that can lead us astray as we look for meaning in our existence.

It’s a serious and wonderful literary journey. It’s not a feel-good book, or a novel meant to revel in all things Latino—in this case Cuban. It’s a thought-provoking piece of fiction that makes you think about the other world—signs, intuition and spirits. It makes you think about your own life, what you want to happen, what you think should happen and all the would-have-beens.

Victoria’s protagonist is a 39-year-old Cuban exile, Natán Velázquez, who lives in Miami. Natán receives a letter from his dying father in Cuba, letting him know he has a half-brother living in the same city. Natán’s journey to find his brother exposes his solitary existence and the need we all have for a connection. Victoria takes Natán on what starts off as a seemingly simple search for his half-brother José Velázquez to all the obvious places. Natán visits his last living relative—an elderly aunt living in Miami’s Little Havana. There, he collects clues that reveal pieces of his brother's mysterious life.

He knows that José has never had a steady job, but prefers to travel—in questionable circles. Natán knows that his brother has a good heart and is a loyal friend. He knows that his brother grew up knowing about him, but opted never to contact him. That is until now. Natán leaves his aunt’s tiny apartment crowded with mementos of the life she left behind in Cuba with a tiny photo of her sitting among her things. The more he gazes at her frail face he begins to see the hazy image of his brother standing behind her.

Natán’s brother appears to him and mostly only to him, driving his desperation to meet face to face. He wonders what life would have been with a brother. How much they would have shared together.

“As a child he wanted so many things; above all the love and acknowledgement of his parents, neighbors and schoolmates. As a teen he had wanted the love of God, and then the love of women. As a young man he had wanted to free his country from the oppressive regime that controlled it; then, in his disappointment, he had wanted to forget his beginnings and his past. Most recently he had wished to get close to his brother, and this desire, too, like all the others, had in time turned against him.”

A Bridge in Darkness was originally published in Spanish as Puente en la Oscuridad in 1993, achieving almost instant success. It received the Premio Letras de Oro en 1993. That was not Victoria’s only award. His work has been feted on both sides of the Atlantic, and not just by Cubans living outside the motherland.

But it’s often our own kind that are most willing to give us a chance. Victoria’s Puente en la Oscuridad was released in English by Pureplay Press, a book publisher dedicated to preserving Cuba’s history and culture. Too bad other publishing houses couldn’t see the merit in translating Victoria’s work.

Ah, what should have and could have been.

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