I just read the most amazing book – ten thumbs up if I had them. It’s The Man Who Loved Dogs by Leonardo Padura Fuentes, a Cuban novelist. Padura is also the author of several detective novels set in Havana.
I’m not alone in my admiration of The Man Who Loved Dogs—the New York Times and the New Yorker reviews tipped me off to 600 pages of inspirador literary fiction and increíble history rolled into one. The translation from Spanish to English by Anna Kushner is superb as well.
Trotsky et al
The novel blends four lives—two that are very real: Lev Davidovich Bronshtein aka Trotsky and Jaime Ramón Mercader del Río who, sent by Stalin, murdered him with an ice axe in Mexico. The primary fictional characters are the narrator and the man who relates the story told to him by the “man who loved dogs” he met on the beach in Cuba.
Here’s a quote from the book that not only summed up the narrator’s experience but my own: “And there we were, without knowing anything… Or is it that we didn’t want to know?”
Where was I?
Full disclosure: I said Stalin, Lenin, and Trotsky in the same breath, the few times I ever mentioned men who not only murdered and tortured millions but shaped a great chunk of the globe for all time. Padura taught me so much—in the form that works best for me—in a novel. I rediscovered my ignorance of history and the—excuse the phrase—party-line that passed for history along with “duck and cover” and later, the glories of nuclear power, American superiority, and the “best healthcare in the world.”
Some serious catching up to do
I’m not blaming good ole Charlie Frieze or any of the teachers who came before or after him for my gross ignorance. Charlie would have been called a Commie if he had made a distinction between Trotsky and Stalin. But clearly, I have some serious catching up to do.
So long as there’s a writer as fine as Padura and the facts I can find to support the story, I look forward to my next history lesson. Now, though, I’m working on a fan letter to Padura and trust that FSG, the publisher, will forward it to him. I hope he is overwhelmed with letters from grateful readers.
PS – Isn’t it just the best feeling to love a book and even at 600 pages hate for it to end?