"Politics sucks, Victoria": José Latour's Comrades in Miami
"For the next fifty minutes, like a nearly invisible virus invading an organism several trillion times its size, the purring outboards slipped the cigarette in."The place is a cigarette boat easing quietly into harbor near Key West, Florida, under cover of night. The cargo and crew are six Cuban defectors. The passage is from José Latour's Comrades in Miami, and I like it for several reasons.
The simile is striking, the ominous image of the virus bumping up against the soft, reassuring purr of the motor, the tiny virus making its quiet way into the unimaginably huge organism (When was the last time you read trillion outside a story about the U.S. budget?) But mostly the little bit of wonder is both magical and touchingly human, the sort of thing I could well imagine myself thinking in a similar situation.
Latour's compassionate humanity comes through as well in his choice of multiple points of view, which permits considerable sympathy even for the novel's worst, most unrelievedly evil character.
The book's political stance is decidedly anti-communist and anti-Castro. Still, Latour is probably not universally loved by the anti-Castroites who are the Cuban-American community's public face in the United States. Here's one of the defectors, a central figure in the novel:
"`But we've reflected on the excesses of democracy and the shortcomings of communism a hundred times. Are we going to do something about it? No, right? So leave it to the naive dissidents who risk their freedom, maybe even their lives. They haven't figured out that when communism falls, Cuban-Americans will give them a medal and a pension before rigging the elections and taking charge. Politics sucks, Victoria."
Click here for two more novels unlikely to earn their authors tickets to a Fidel Castro celebrity roast.
© Peter Rozovsky 2009