Writers hate other writers. That’s the secret. Maybe not a particularly well-kept one. Its usually professional jealousy – we don’t want to give legitimacy to the fame of others, happier to accrue their success to winds of fate or connections or something else except that they have actual skill. Incidentally, I’m not exempt from this phenomenon. Read below…
This novel is by Leonardo Padura, one of Cuba’s most well-known writers, and its about Hemingway, one of the world’s best-known writers. Now, anybody who reads my reviews knows what I think about Hemingway. Specifically, he has no skill – his writing is so awful as to be unreadable. Why he is famous is beyond me – except that he existed in a moment in time when there were fewer writers so the bar was lower and he managed to be affiliated with the right club to get his stuff into print. Also he was a commie, and that always helps – communists still control the publishing industry, and so they naturally wanted to give one of their own a hands up. It’s human nature.
Padura goes one beyond me – he humanizes Hemingway. He goes out of his way to deconstruct the Hemingway myth, that of the great virile hunter, turning him into a weak inebriated madman. With all sorts of bad habits. He actually was probably right, the Hemingway myth for me was debunked by reading “A Movable Feast” which, in Hemingway’s own words showed just how un-romantic was his time in Paris. “The Warmest Country” it was not, Yerevan in the winter with the great communist writers (before Stalin had them all killed) arguing in the cafe of the Intourist hotel in front of Aipetrat publishing, the snow falling around in gentle quiet seclusion of life behind the iron curtain. More chasing after Fitzgerald who was evidently a mean drunk.
Now on Padura – this novel is also pretty bad. Not inspiring or uplifting or magical or magnificent. Crude when it didn’t have to be; and I read it in a day and a half without having to miss any parts of it. Perhaps it did not translate – or perhaps a writer writing a mean-spirited book about another writer is not fodder for great literature. Whatever it was, don’t bother reading this book. I myself only received it in the mail by accident… And that is all.