Sunday, 23 December 2018

The Passion According To Carmela by Marcos Aguinis


The Passion According To Carmela by Marcos Aguinis
First published in Spanish as La pasion segun Carmela by Editorial Sudamericana SA in Argentina in 2008. English language translation by Carolina de Robertis published by AmazonCrossing in 2018.

How I got this book:
Bought the ebook from Amazon

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


It is a time for upheaval in Cuba: the time to build a new society. Even from her position of privilege, idealistic divorcĂ©e Carmela Vasconcelos sees the waves of uprising and is caught up in the excitement. Persuaded by her brother, Lucas, she flees her wealthy home to join Fidel Castro’s rebels.

In the mountainous jungle of the Sierra Maestra, Carmela meets Ignacio Deheza, a charismatic Argentinian socialist fighting on behalf of the insurrection. On the training fields of a revolution, they bond in the cause—and in a blind passion that stirs their blood and soul.

As Carmela, Ignacio, and Lucas navigate increasingly dangerous political waters, their personal fates become inexorably tied with that of their country. But when the rebellion succumbs to corruption and disillusionment, they’ll find their dedication to the movement tested. For Carmela and Ignacio, they’ll soon discover that it’s their commitment to each other—and the choices they must make to survive—that will be the greatest challenge of all.

Part of the publisher's marketing spiel for The Passion According To Carmela describes this novel as an 'epic love story'. Together with the word 'Passion' in the title, I thought I had a pretty good idea of what Aguinis' writing style would be. Unfortunately I was wrong! Two of the characters do fall in love, but in rather a lukewarm way and, although the actual historic events in 1950s and 1960s were 'epic', I struggled to apply that word to this novel. It's a shame.

The Passion According To Carmela is an interesting recounting of how rebel Cubans gradually turned towards Fidel Castro to save them from the tyranny of Batista, and how those same idealists were subsequently let down by a regime that strayed from its initial promises. As Aguinis described the guerilla battles and privations, I was strongly reminded of George Orwell's Spanish Civil War memoir Homage To Catalonia. Much of the political ideology and lack of basic resources appear identical. However Orwell wrote in quite a dry way which I felt kept the reader at a distance and Aguinis achieves the same result but with too much telling and not enough showing. He jumps from first-person to third-person narration with each chapter which is confusing enough, but his two lead characters - doomed lovers Carmela and Ignacio - don't even have distinct voices so I didn't always know whose perspective I was reading.

I wondered if the problem was perhaps in the translation so if anyone has read the original Spanish La pasion segun Carmela perhaps they could let me know whether they also had a sense of being one step removed from the action. There are strange colloquialisms too. In describing Carmela and Ignacio's initial attraction to each other, Aguinis repeatedly talks of the 'hot glass bridge' of their gaze. The what?!

There are good points to this novel. I do now know more about the Cuban revolution than I did a few days ago and the several chapters held my attention more strongly than others. The essential narrative line is strong, but I felt this story needed much stronger characterisation and better world-building in order to really spark my imagination.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Marcos Aguinis / Historical fiction / Books from Argentina

8 comments:

  1. I am sorry that this one wasn't quite what you had hoped it would be. I have a hard time when it is hard to tell which point of view you are reading. Glad this one wasn't all bad for you.

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    1. This one was ok, but with such a potentially amazing subject I felt it could have been way more exciting and emotional

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  2. That sounds informative even if it's not my kind of book.

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    1. It was interesting to read a Latin American perspective on the Cuban revolution as many of the ideas and opinions were very different to those I've previously encountered from British and USA writers

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  3. Sounds like it could be interesting.

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    1. I just felt an author like, say, Aminatta Forna could have made so much more of these characters and their experiences

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  4. I love how many translated novels you read! Honestly, it inspires me to pick up more translated reads as well. Also, such a shame about this one. It sounds like it really just didn't end up delivering what it promised from the synopsis, and then what it did give you didn't really work :/

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    1. I guess it just goes to show that having an amazing premise and setting doesn't guarantee an amazing novel. It is pretty good, but I wanted great!

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