Sunday, October 8, 2017

"The Cuban Affair”

John J. Miller writes for the Wall Street Journal:
A Yale tour group visits a Havana restaurant in “The Cuban Affair,” the new novel by Nelson DeMille. As the Cuban handler expounds on the blessings of socialism, several of the Yalies nod in thoughtful agreement. “If they spent an hour in a kennel, they’d probably come out barking,” quips Mr. DeMille’s narrator. “So much for an Ivy League education.”

The point is made and the scene moves on—but during a conversation over coffee at Chicago’s Four Seasons Hotel, where Mr. DeMille is staying during a nationwide book tour, the author muses on the root of the problem. His mind turns to Alexander Solzhenitsyn, the Russian author and dissident, who died in 2008. “Intellectuals said socialism is good if you do it right. Solzhenitsyn said: No, it’s coercive by its nature. There are millions of people in the world and in this country who don’t know that. They can even visit Cuba and not change their thinking one iota,” Mr. DeMille says. “They are intellectually or emotionally tied to some kind of ideal.”...

Cuba just kind of creeps on,” he says. “After communism collapsed around the world, this place held on. Maybe it was the charisma of Fidel Castro ? I have no idea. I have no answers.”

The Cuban people, though, impressed him. One scene in “The Cuban Affair” takes place in a chop shop, where Havana’s ingenious auto mechanics make classic cars run with old parts. On his trip, Mr. DeMille also spotted more-mundane examples of resourcefulness: “Everybody’s got a line in the water to fish. That’s where their protein comes from.” He’d like to see more of this spirit, but knows that the government won’t allow it. “Cuba’s not evolving the way Vietnam has,” he says, recounting a trip to Southeast Asia in the 1990s as he researched “Up Country,” a 2002 novel. “The Vietnamese have embraced capitalism wholeheartedly.”

Things are different in Cuba. “In case anybody is wondering, socialism just doesn’t work,” Mr. DeMille says. “This is a dictatorship. It’s an oppressive police state. They have no property rights. People stand in line to gather the necessities of life, like food and clothes, wasting millions of hours. It comes down to wasted lives.” In “The Cuban Affair,” Mac surveys the decayed grandeur of Havana and concludes: “This whole city needed Cuban American contractors from Florida.”


  1. I am typing this with this book in my lap, having just finished it. I don't read many novels but assumed this would confront what ails Cuba (and all collective societies, including the Land of the Free). It did.

  2. Good to see a new DeMille novel. His book about the TWA 800 affair is a must read. A novel, but with lots of truthiness.