Book Notes: Leonardo Padura’s Dust in the Wind

Padura is the most famous writer currently living in Cuba, and as they say, beggars cannot be choosers. Everybody who’s any good left the island a long time ago, and Padura is what’s left.

And it’s not that he’s bad. There is a story that he’s trying to tell, and it’s often quite good. But sweet Lord in heaven, is he ever so wordy. The novel could lose 400 pages and gain massively in focus.

The intrigue at the heart of the novel hinges on a group of very educated people, one of whom is a doctor of medicine, not knowing that condoms don’t give a 100% guarantee from pregnancy. They spend nearly three decades in inane dialogues that go like this:

“Who is Adela’s father?”
“I don’t know. Wasn’t me. I used a condom.”
“Who was it then?”
“No clue. I used a condom.”
“Did it break?”
“Does that ever happen? Do condoms break?”
“I don’t know. But who’s Adela’s father? Did you say you used a condom?”

The novel actually isn’t a critique of the condom industry. It’s about exile and all of the Cubans who left the country. By the end of the book, you begin to feel like you now know every detail of the life of every Cuban who has ever left. Or stayed.

Again, it’s not all bad. I enjoyed large chunks of it. But at the end of the novel there’s this horse who’s very old and tired and needs to be put out if its misery. I identified with the horse a lot because it did feel like the blasted novel would never end. The only thing that kept me going was knowing what a funny post I’d write about it.