The end of the Cuban idyll

Sunset over Havana

The BBC is running a story today that the Cuban government has removed the need for its citizens to have an exit permit to travel abroad. There are many beginnings, even to ends, but this is another because ends the Cuban idyll for all which Castro established when he won power in 1959 and restricted foreign travel.

The restriction’s lifting reminds me of Milan Kundera’s Book of Laughter and Forgetting, a stinging critique of Communist government in Czechoslovakia, first published in Czech in 1978 and in English translation in 1980. In the first section of his novel “Lost Letters”, he writes of the idyll for all:

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Travelling with Ernest: Havana

It is sixty years since Ernest Hemingway published the Old Man and the Sea and just over fifty since he leant on the trigger of his favourite shotgun in Ketchum, Idaho, with the barrel in his mouth.

He wrote the novella at his house in the outer hills of Havana and set it in Cojimar, a small town twenty minutes east of Havana’s Prado by the No.58 bus, where he moored his boat after fishing for marlin in the Gulf Stream.

CojimarIn Cojimar the sun is hot and the air is clean and cool. The sea is calm. The roads are quiet. There is only one tout who says I am paying too much for my hotel and that I should stay at a bed and breakfast he knows. There is almost a breeze.

It feels far away from the heat and humidity of Havana and its taxi? … taxi? taxi drivers, cigar, sir, cigar cigar sellers, I want to buy your hat hat sellers, Cuban Musicians playing high-school rhythm for tips in public plazas and the prostitutes who sit in pairs along the Malecon.

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