Distant Palaces

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9781559707008: Distant Palaces

Discovering that the old palace where he rents a tiny apartment is about to be demolished, Victorio, a lonely, middle-aged gay man, wanders the street in search of a new place to call home, encountering two unusual people--Salma, a young prostitute, and Don Fuco, an elderly, eccentric clown--with whom he finds temporary refuge.

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About the Author:

Abilio Est-vez was born in Havana in 1954 and lives in Spain. He is the author of plays, a collection of poems and a volume of short stories. His previous novel, Thine Is the Kingdom, has been translated into twelve languages and was published by Harvill.

From Publishers Weekly:

Less ambitious than his well-received Thine Is the Kingdom, this new novel by leading Cuban prose stylist Estevez features glorious description but little story. Victorio is a middle-aged gay man living in a tiny apartment in one of Havana's many crumbling mansions. When the mansion is scheduled for demolition, Victorio is homeless, cast adrift. Broke, heartbroken, he wanders through Havana's streets, living on handouts and encountering other odd, penniless characters. He's looking for something, but what? At best, this can be defined as companionship, or even the memory of Cuba's former glory, which haunts Victorio as he encounters each destroyed facade and empty building. Estevez writes with the soul of a set designer, placing Victorio in a series of decayed "palaces"-a mental asylum, a prostitute's apartment, even a theater-that serve as both backdrop and metaphor for Havana's ruined beauty. Despite Victorio's presence, Havana is the book's real subject, giving Estevez the opportunity to annotate the city's likes, dislikes, desires, fears, and real and perceived role in history. In his hands, Havana takes on a looming, forceful, erotic personality ("There is no other city where you can see so many bodies through the windows. Men and women loll about naked, voluptuous, in front of windows thrown wide open"). Victorio is mostly a man to be pitied, and those looking for a compelling plot will be disappointed, but Havana's rage at its own neglect gives the book a unique energy. Frye ably renders the rich, ornate phrasings ("The soup tastes good indeed, like something cooked in an old convent") found throughout.
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