The Cuban writer novels about two mirages of freedom in the recent history of the island in the ninth installment of the Mario Conde police series
"With six murders, it is my most Havana and criminal novel." This is how Leonardo Padura (Havana, 66 years old) presents 'Decent People' (Tusquets), the ninth installment of the policeman Mario Conde. They are two novels in one about two crucial episodes in the history of Cuba, two mirages of freedom experienced at the beginning and end of the 20th century in which a Cuba without chains was glimpsed that soon vanished. "Cuba and Cubans are fed up with having their future stolen," says the writer, journalist and screenwriter, Princess of Asturias Award for Letters in 2015 and who does not intend to leave his mortified island.
“Being decent is impracticable in Cuba. To survive you have to do things that, without being illegal, are discussed with the strict ethics of decency”, says Padura to explain the title. His investigator, Mario Conde, ex-police officer, ex-seller of old books, memorizing and pessimistic, "was always decent." «He needed that decency so that he could investigate the darkest things; he couldn't be vulnerable »says his creator.
He regrets that in Cuba, as in the rest of the world, "the sons of bitches gain space and are more and more." He also that the world is "a place of ultra-competition" and that politics is degraded. "She is perverted. There are, as always, political sons of bitches, criminals, dictators and tyrants. But today the shame has been lost and those politicians try to deceive us as if we were imbeciles », she laments.
Padura novel "two great frustrations" through two investigations. One takes place in 1910, when Havana, intervened by the US government, wanted to be the Nice of the Caribbean. It revolves around the life of the wealthy pimp Alberto Yarini, whose story the Count himself intends to fictionalize. At 24 years old, Yarini was the most acclaimed pimp in Havana's "zone of tolerance," but he gained power as a representative of the Chamber and as a candidate for deputy mayor.
In the other plot, Conde investigates the mutilation and murder of a former Castro censor who harassed, retaliated and ruined the careers of writers and artists such as José Lezama Lima or Virgilio Piñera, and made a fortune selling the paintings he stole.
party and nightmare
In 2016 Cuba was a party, as Hemingway would say. In full thaw, he visited the island Barack Obama, the first US president to do so since 1928. There was a historic concert by the Rolling Stones, and a Chanel parade. The Kardashians, Rihanna, the cast of 'Fast & Furious', who shot part of one of their installments on the island, also passed through Havana.
But soon the dream vanished and the totalitarian nightmare and the deficiencies returned. "It was another parenthesis in our history," illustrates Padura. «Today in Cuba everything is again lacking: food, medicine, energy... Sometimes you need to spend six hours in a queue in the sun looking for something to eat, and nothing guarantees that you will find it. Buying tobacco is an odyssey. Blackouts of at least four hours a day are constant. Inflation is brutal, and the harvest has been one of the worst in history, lower than in World War I », he lists.
“There are migratory crises that are not counted. More than 150,000 highly educated young Cubans have fled through Nicaragua, which does not require a visa, to cross Mexico, reach the Rio Grande and enter the United States. Those who leave and those who stay have been robbed of the future », he reiterates.
Despite so many difficulties, Padura does not want to leave Cuba. He has a Spanish passport, granted by naturalization certificate, and feels comfortable with one foot on each side of the Atlantic. "I want to be close to the reality that feeds my books," he says. “I am happy with one foot here and one there. At first I was a Cuban writer who published in Spain and now I am a writer from Tusquets who is also Cuban”, he boasts. «Every time I come to Europe I return with three suitcases full of cheese, ham, olive oil and medicines. For the family, for my 95-year-old mother and for my 86-year-old mother-in-law, it is as if the Three Wise Men arrived,” he added with a smile.