Thursday, January 12, 2017

Cuba: Pig's Foot, by Carlos Acosta

This was a delightful find in our local library, a glorious, exuberant romp through more than a century of Cuban history, through the eyes of the narrator who finds himself alone in the world and makes a journey to the forgotten settlement of Pata de Puerco (pig's foot) to trace his roots, and the origins of the mysterious pigs foot amulet that has been passed down to him. But all is not quite as it seems. "My name is Oscar Mandinga" says the narrator. "Don't forget it". But is he really who he claims to be?

Whether or not he is Oscar Mandinga, and whether or not the town of Pata de Puerco exists, or whether it is an invention of his troubled brain, the lives of its inhabitants are always fascinating, and the way in which the author weaves in the strands of Cuban history contributes skilfully to the story (there are distortions, fully acknowledged in the author's notes, for instance works of a real life architect are attributed to one of the fictional characters in the story).

Carlos Acosta, interestingly, is a Cuban ballet dancer. Besides his one novel he has written a memoir, No Way Home. (This sounds intriguing - how a delinquent kid from Havana, dreaming of becoming a soccer player, became one of the world's best ballet dancers). Pig's Foot is published by Bloomsbury and translated from Spanish by Frank Wynne.

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