Havana Year Zero by Cuban author Karla Suarez took me to Havana in 1993. You wouldn’t want to live in Havana around that time because Cuba was in an economic crisis following the collapse of the Soviet Union. This unusual and interesting novel is about Havana of that time and who invented the telephone.
We listen to the various characters and the main story from Julia. Julia and her friend and former lover Euclid make their mission to prove that the telephone was actually invented in Cuba by Antonio Meucci. On the way, they discover many things; lies, secret allies, improbable relationships. And the reader sees that nothing is as it seems, and everything can change in a second because the characters change their positions like they are in a game.
I love the characters in this book; they are finely crafted, easily loveable, have their own flaws and highly entertaining. And the unexpected bonds between them makes this relatively slow book interesting.
Havana Year Zero is unusual because of its narrator cause Julie talks to the reader. Her remarks and questions made me involve a lot more in the story. I can see that it is a good move because otherwise, the story may have been a bit boring. Its pace doesn’t change much, and nothing exciting happens. But I must admit, I didn’t see that end coming. And learning about Antonio Meucci was totally a plus! If you want to read a book set in Havana, look no further. Enjoy!
Havana Year Zero
It was as if we’d reached the minimum critical point of a mathematical curve. Imagine a parabola. Zero-point down, at the bottom of an abyss. That’s how low we sank.
The year is 1993. Cuba is at the height of the Special Period, a widespread economic crisis following the collapse of the Soviet bloc.
For Julia, a mathematics lecturer who hates teaching, Havana is at Year Zero: the lowest possible point, going nowhere. Desperate to seize control of her life, Julia teams up with her colleague and former lover, Euclid, to seek out a document that proves the telephone was invented by Antonio Meucci in Havana, convinced it is the answer to secure their reputations and give Cuba a purpose once more.
From this point zero, Julia sets out on an investigation to befriend two men who could help lead to the document’s whereabouts and must pick apart a tangled mystery of sex, family legacies and the intricacies of how people find ways to survive in a country at its lowest ebb.
WINNER Carbet de la Caraïbe et du Tout-monde (2012)
WINNER Insular Book Award (France, 2012)
Karla Suárez is a Cuban writer, born in Havana in 1969. She studied classical guitar and has a degree in electronic engineering. Suárez is the author of three collections of short stories, two books that combine travel writing with photography, and four novels. Her books have received many international awards, including the Lengua de Trapo Prize for her 1999 debut novel Silencios (Silences), for which she was also selected among the ten novelists of the year in 2000 by the newspaper El Mundo.
The French translation of Silencios was also a finalist for the Insular America Award and Guyana Prize for Literature 2004. Many of her stories have appeared in anthologies and magazines published in Europe, the United States, and Latin America. Several of her stories as well as some of her novels have been adapted for television and theatre. In 2007, she was selected by the Hay Festival as one of the Bogotá39 writers, which groups together the best Latin American authors under the age of 40. Havana Year Zero (2011) is her third novel and has obtained the Prix Carbet of the Caribbean and Tout-Monde and the Insular Book Prize, both in France. It is her first book to be published in English.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges: