July 5, 2018
Winter book preview: Revolution Sunday by Wendy Guerra
by Melville House
As summer gets going in earnest, we’re taking a look at some of the books we have forthcoming in the next few months. Honestly, we’re getting pretty excited. Right now, let’s have a look at Wendy Guerra’s Revolution Sunday, which hits shelves December 4th.
Cleo, scion of a once-prominent Cuban family and a promising young writer in her own right, travels to Spain to collect a prestigious award. There, Cuban expats view her with suspicion — assuming she’s an informant for the Castro regime. To Cleo’s surprise, that suspicion follows her home to Cuba, where she finds herself under constant surveillance by the government. When she meets and falls in love with a Hollywood filmmaker, she discovers her family is not who she thought they were… and neither is the filmmaker.
Revolution Sunday is the first book to be translated into English from Wendy Guerra, a well-known author and TV presenter in her native Cuba. She was a member of the Bogotá 39, and has taught at Princeton and UCLA. It springs into bookstores on December 4th; here, to tide you over till then, is the passage that opens the book.
I must be the only person in Havana who feels lonely today. I live in this promiscuous, intense, reckless, rambling city where privacy and discretion, silence and secrets, are almost a miracle; a place where light finds you no matter where you hide. Maybe that’s why when you feel lonely here, it’s because, really, you’ve been abandoned.
“Don’t study so much, but learn,” my mother used to say from the depths of my dreams.
I’m one of those people who believes things can always get worse, but this time I was convinced the truly terrible parts had already passed, and nothing worse could happen, or at least that’s what I told myself during those months I spent bedridden, delirious, separated from the world and from myself.
One sunny morning, much like all the other mornings of the year I spent in bed, the phone rang. The phone was under a mountain of dirty underwear, fortune cookie boxes, and other leftovers from my confinement. Because the time for condolences was over and there was no one left who cared about me, it didn’t ring too often. But now it rang. The last time had been three weeks ago. It had been my friend Armando calling from New York. The pity in his voice was obvious as he sang the words to a well-known guaguancó, “I have no mother, I have no father, I have no one who loves me.” He laughed nervously and hung up immediately. Yes, Armando knows I hate condolences, and his sense of humor is greater than my sense of drama. Now, the phone was ringing and ringing, insistently. It rang so much that I had time to crawl out of bed and find it under the heap of trash. Who could it be? There was no family left to deliver bad news, and I’d asked Márgara, our lifelong housekeeper, to stop coming around. I didn’t even trust my own shadow anymore, and I didn’t want anyone to see me like this. The phone seemed like it wouldn’t stop ringing, so I took my time answering. I was beyond being bothered by irritating noises or by any fateful news, apart from that of my own death.
An editor from Catalonia was calling to tell me I had won a big literary prize. They were going to give me fifty thousand euros and, in exchange, they would publish I don’t know how many thousands of copies of my book. Did I want to fly to Spain next month to promote the book? Would I have time “before suicide?” the editor quipped, paraphrasing the title of my work. I said yes to everything and then punished myself with a freezing shower to wash away the lingering bitterness inside me. That was the end of the sit-down baths I sometimes took when I bothered to get up. My spine got better on the spot and, even though I had no one to call, lots of people started calling me; journalists and friends of my mother. Cuban authors abroad and plenty of nosy people who simply needed to know what I had done to get something I surely didn’t deserve.
I couldn’t believe it. At the same time, when I really got to thinking about it, it was everything I had hoped for in life. As a thirtysomething, it fit like a glove. The prize was a stroke of luck that would point the way to the future at a time when the only alternative was to fall into bed and lie there with my eyes open and my mind blank.
What had this year been about? Remembering what happened to my parents, and the strong pressure that came after their deaths.
I closed my eyes to remember the torrent of silver and pain, the dilated explosion that turned the only people who had guided my life into ashes. To close my eyes is to open them to death.
On certain days, I would wonder why I had been saved. Would what was to come next be worth it? Why didn’t my parents ever say anything to me? Did they suspect their only daughter? Why did I have to undergo so many police interrogations after their deaths? Who were they, really? There was something more than “Papá” and “Mamá” behind their names.
I rarely got out of bed. The doorbell almost always woke me up. It was them, the secret police. By now I knew it was always them because no one else wanted to get involved in my tragedy. I invited the officers into my room. It smelled bad, yes, but I couldn’t be bothered to do anything about it.
The plainclothes officers didn’t even look at me; they were obsessed with the idea that I shouldn’t speak to anyone, express opinions, or give interviews. Interviews? With whom? For what? No one had contacted me, yet they insisted, demanded silence, asked me to trust them. More silence? Is there anything more silent than this profound mutism? What is left after your voice is nullified by the death of everything you ever had? There’s no one here to talk to or with whom to communicate. Sometimes a neighbor knocks on my door to bring me some milk or a plate of food, which I either force myself to swallow or vomit before digesting. But I don’t let anyone else in; I’m out of the game. I don’t exist.
Revolution Sunday by Wendy Guerra
ON SALE: December 4, 2018