Review: The Repeating Island – The Caribbean and the Postmodern Perspective – by Antonio Benítez-Rojo

the repeating island

The Cuban author offers a postmodern view of the Caribbean. It is a sociocultural study that encompasses aspects of history, economics, sociology, cultural anthropology, psychoanalysis, literary theory, and non-linear mathematics, incorporating chaos theory. The book’s aims and theories are laid out in a flowing introduction whereby Benítez-Rojo’s notion of the ‘repeating island’ is explored, through the lens of polyrhythms and meta-archipelagoes. Benítez-Rojo sees in all of the Caribbean a repetitive streaming of ideas, of resistance to slavery, of Plantation culture of postcolonialist discourse. The book focuses on a series of Caribbean authors and poets, from Gabriel García Márquez to the author’s poet of preference, the Cuban Guillén. Critical essays explore how a multitude of creative characters have interpreted their lives in the Antilles, and recurring themes of the cult of the Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre or of the sacrificed slave Mackandal, reverberate in the author’s dissections of West Indian culture. This book gives a valuable postmodernist insight into the supersyncretic culture that comprises the Caribbean.


Review: Cocaine Nation – How The White Trade Took Over The World – by Tom Feiling

cocaine nation

This is an enthralling, well-researched book, that reveals many unknown new facts about the global cocaine industry. The book opens with a chapter focussing on the USA, the biggest market for the Cocaine industry, where 66% of Cocaine users exist. We then enter into the producing and transit phase of the drug and examine Colombia, Mexico and the Caribbean in detail. Colombia has the infamous Medellín and Cali cartels, much responsible for the initial production of Cocaine. The role of the FARC, AUC and the Colombian Civil War is documented and the political difficulties with America’s Plan Colombia and the extreme bribery involved in Colombian political life. In Mexico, we see how the various cartels such as Sinaloa, Juárez, Gulf and Tijuana have gone to war, recruiting the services of such paramilitaries as Los Zetas. The Caribbean covers Jamaica in detail and also Cuba, Haiti and the various tax haven islands. In Jamaica we see how politics have heavily influenced the gang culture and the rise of the Shower Posse is documented. In all of the Western producer country sphere, the USA and its policies is never far from the forefront. The ‘War on Drugs’ in force from many successive administrations at the White House, often focuses on producer and transit countries and is totally supported by draconian United Nations international legislation. The European market, in particular the United Kingdom is the second largest market for Cocaine and some countries here have introduced decriminalisation. In places such as Holland and Portugal, drug use is not penalised. The author explores how users are affected by the drug and explores addiction, in particular the problems of crack cocaine. In the final part of the book we look at possible legalisation solutions although, despite Feiling’s enthusiasm for this to happen, I fear it will be many generations before this becomes politically possible. Perhaps with potential cannabis decriminalisation and legalisation on the agenda, it will open up the doors for other narcotics to follow suit? I enjoyed the book and it really does go into detail on what is an interesting subject and a truly global industry.

Review : Chávez: Venezuela and the New Latin America – by Aleida Guevara

chavezThis book is based on a series of interviews given by Venezuelan leader, Hugo Chavez, to the daughter of Che Guevara, Aleida. Although the book doesn’t cover the entire period of Chavez’ rule up until his demise, it presents a wonderful tale and grasps fundamental insight into the way the mind works of one of the most popular Latin American leaders of the modern era. Chavez, a man of military background, discusses his rise to power in Venezuela, his roots and also the wider world of South America. His relationship with Fidel Castro is striking and his leftist tendencies are very apparent. His goals for the Venezuelan people and socialist objectives cover the first part of the story and he moves onto topics as diverse as the Gulf War and his family in the second, more broken series of short interview chapters. The book concludes with appendices of a TV interview with Hugo and Aleida and also with some of the insider details of the attempted military coup d’etat that took place against Chavez. I found the book to be very insightful and interesting on a subject that I previously understood very little.

Review: To Have and Have Not – by Ernest Hemingway

To Have and Have Not
To Have and Have Not by Ernest Hemingway
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This Hemingway adventure is set in Cuba and involves a wily sailor who is involved in the murky smuggling business between Havana and his home port in Florida. Harry Morgan is a man in conflict with his morals. He is a family man, fully supportive of his wife and daughters and he aims to put food on his table. But, how he does this, is with a selfish immoral attitude. After a chartered fishing expedition goes wrong and his client fails to pay, Harry is left to make up his income in any way possible. The dark episodes in the story are sudden and explosive and the murky world of criminals, murder, revolutionaries, smuggling and rummy alcoholics jumps out of the pages at you with venom. There is a contrasting world of high society where things aren’t so desperate, but equally there are sinister undertones here too. The main tale ends in tragedy though one can tell that Harry has been riding his luck for a while. To Have And To Have Not is a vivid tale and makes one question morals. Harry, the antihero, goes from bad to worse, yet, as a reader you are always looking our for him and hoping he gets through and achieves salvation.

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Review: The Cuban Revolution: Origins, Course, and Legacy – by Marifeli Pérez-Stable

The Cuban Revolution: Origins, Course, and Legacy
The Cuban Revolution: Origins, Course, and Legacy by Marifeli Pérez-Stable
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I’m doing a university essay question on the Cuban Revolution so felt that this was a good text to read ahead of doing my assignment. The book certainly covers the Cuban Revolution and its aftermath in a lot of detail. It is a modern history of Cuba. However, whereas other works on the Cuban Revolution focus on perhaps the more glamorous side of the actual taking of the island and the chief protagonists, this book delves a little deeper and assesses the actual politics of the revolution and its real implications. Every finding is backed up with real data and the author, who initially was very supportive of the revolution, is clear in her latter condemnation of its impact. Cuba is, for sure, an anomaly among world states. I found the impact of ‘Fidel-Patria-Revolucion’ and the development of Cuban ‘conciencia’ very important in the whole ideology of the new Cuba. The anti-imperialism of the regime is clear, but Cuba’s almost solitary dependence on sugar left it open to all sorts of fundamental problems. It cosied up to the Soviet Union during the Cold War but this left its own impact as the Berlin Wall fell and the Soviet Union broke apart. It is very bizarre how Cuba the revolution has survived intact but what future lies ahead? This book gave me a lot greater understanding of what the revolution meant specifically to the Cuban people and its lasting legacy. It’s a thorough read and though occasionally it does bog you down in detail it is an academic text and this can be expected.

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Review: The Old Man and the Sea – by Ernest Hemingway

The Old Man and the Sea
The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is only a short book and I read it in a couple of hours. The brevity doesn’t, however, take away from it being a great tale. An old fisherman heads out to sea off his native Cuba and endures an epic battle with a Marlin, the first fish he has caught in over 80 days. He is alone at sea, his unsuccessful fishing meaning that his child partner can no longer go out to sea with him. The man faces a battle with his aging body and mind in addition to the fight he has with the graceful, strong fish. After three days of hard labor, he finally lands the Marlin. Unable to fit on the boat he has to strap the fish to the outside and, having drift far too out to sea for comfort, he faces a long struggle home, where his real battle against the elements of the sea begin. Sharks are the danger and, as the dead catch releases its scent and blood into the water, the scavengers of the ocean set out to undo the old man’s work. He repels the attacks using every weapon to hand but they are too plentiful and finally he reaches shore, with just a skeleton remaining of the giant Marlin. He is glad to be home and exhausted, he can face his community with a little more pride as from the skeleton they can tell that he is still a great fisherman.

Hemingway weaves his magic, using simple language and colorful prose imagery. He obviously has a deep love for fishing and his knowledge of the sea comes direct from his own fishing experience. The novel captures the reality of ocean-fishing and with the loneliness of the sea offset by the old man’s fondness of baseball and his dreams of lions on the beach in Africa, we read a cleverly weaved tale and it is no surprise to me that Ernest Hemingway was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature as a direct result of writing this masterpiece.

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