When I first picked up this book I was expecting a savage political satire with the odd sordid detail chucked in for good measure. Don’t get me wrong but Dirty Havana Trilogy is most definitely an attack on Cuba but in more ways than one.
The novel takes place in Cuba during the mid nineties, supposedly when the country is going through a tough time. Poverty is rampant and every character in this book tries to find a sort of escape, In these sixty short fragments sex is the only form of breaking free. It features in every single story and is the only thing which the characters live for.
The book is told through the eyes of the author himself and concern mainly him and his conquests. We also get descriptions of poverty and off the cuff money-making schemes. Some grotesque and some just plain weird. In a sense you could say that this is a cross between Charles Bukowski and Hubert Selby Jr. It depicts a raw untamed lifestyle.
Despite all the atrocities which happen the author and most of his conquests become stronger as they survive one more day of living in the rough. In the last story, and one of the very few not to feature Pedro Juan there is a quote by the sex mad ex boxer Cholo which summarises the whole book :
“You can’t let your guard down. That’s how they used to knock me out, when I let my guard down”
Indeed, those people who do resign themselves to the dead-end life they are living are the ones that suffer the most.
Dirty Havana Trilogy is shocking and repetitive but strangely compelling and sparks your curiosity. Maybe it is a bit odd to spend boxing day reading about a character with a rubber pipe instead of a penis but then maybe there is something worse.