Dust in the wind
by Leonardo Padura
Translated from Spanish (Cuba) by René Solis
Métailié, 640 p., € 24.20
“ Qhat happened to us? ” This agonizing question runs from one end of Dust in the wind, romantic sum that traces the history of Cuba from the 1980s to today, a land blessed as much as hated that Leonardo Padura never wanted to leave, unlike the characters in his story. They are eight – Elisa, Bernardo, Horacio, Dario, Irving, Fabio, Liuba and Walter – friends since childhood, forming what they call a “Clan”. Engineer, architect, neurosurgeon, artist… they have faith in a possible future on an island to which they are deeply attached. Their anchor point is the house of Fontanar, a district of Havana, “Magnetic core of the brotherhood”.
Years of shared happiness, between love and disenchantment, until January 21, 1990, Clara’s 30th birthday. Their last evening together. Because that year marks the beginning of the “special period” for Cuba, which has just lost the USSR, its ally. The country suddenly finds itself under the yoke of an economic and social crisis. It will upset the existence of the Cuban people as much as of the characters in this imaginative work, anchored in the reality of a tormented political history.
Unparalleled entomologist, Leonardo Padura dissects the collapse of his island, which enters “A black tunnel”, as much as the disillusions which gradually take hold of the members of the clan. Everything runs out – food, oil, medicine, electricity, rum… – businesses close, unemployment becomes the norm. “Is it possible to mark the precise moment when an existence twists, this fatal rupture which pushes one or more lives on unexpected paths? ” If the question torments the faithful Irving, it will be Dario who will be the first to take the plunge into exile. The others will follow, hearts turned upside down, becoming “More than exiles, perpetual refugees, nourished by emotional memory and the sweet illusion of a dream of return. Alive or dead. “ Only Clara will remain anchored in Fontanar.
In this long-term epic where humor wanders, the novelist focuses on the nostalgic drift of these voluntary castaways on the lands of Spain, Argentina, the United States, France or Puerto Rico, while interweaving a plot that will serve as a framework for the story: the disappearance of Elisa and the mysterious death of Walter in this gloomy year of 1990 … It will be up to the new generation to solve the riddle and finally answer the nagging question that torments each member of the clan. Maybe it’s in the Kansas band song Leonardo Padura listened to in Havana in the 1970s, Dust in the wind …