In these renegade stories, set in Cuba during the hard times following the collapse of the Soviet Union, people go to work only to find that their jobs no longer exist. They joke and tell stories from the past, live aimlessly, uncertain about what the future holds. While living in this state of suspension, Ponte's dynamic characters create their own startling worlds.
Departing from both the utopian-political and the romantic-baroque styles of past Cuban literature, Ponte deftly sketches a picture of a contemporary Cuba that is very different from the stereotype of Caribbean life, full of music and dance and colorful celebration. An old man and a six-year-old prodigy have a rendezvous to play chess at a forlorn railroad station. Randomly riding trains, a woman keeps company with a strange assembly of men. An unemployed historian falls in love with an enigmatic astrologer, and the two live out their tragedy in the streets of Havana as homeless vagrants. A father and son take an aimless stroll after lunch to see the whores along the Malecón, Havana's seaside promenade. A young man, one of the last Cuban students to go to the Soviet Union on a foreign-study program, returns to Havana, where he explores his identity-looking at childhood photos with his grandfather, spending time with old friends, and obsessively seeking news of a woman he had known and loved in Russia. In a style both lucid and translucent, Ponte shapes intricate stories of self-discovery and metaphysical revelation in spare and allusive prose.
"In his first book to be published in the U.S., Ponte gives readers a short collection of six elliptical stories from inside the Cuban revolutionary experience, closer in spirit to the fiction of Eastern European dissidents than to that of Caribbean fabulists. Unlike exiled writers who see the island as either a mythical homeland or a political cause, Ponte paints a picture that will strike the U.S. reader as surreal in its simplicity."—Publisher's Weekly
Ponte raises unease to an art, stripping Cuban spirituality to the bone. His work is so quiet that one can begin to hear the real dynamics, usually just out of reach."—Elizabeth Hanley, Partisan Review