Academic journal article The International Journal of Cuban Studies

Sun, Sex and Socialism: Cuba in the German Imaginary

Academic journal article The International Journal of Cuban Studies

Sun, Sex and Socialism: Cuba in the German Imaginary

Article excerpt

Jennifer ruth Hosek, Sun, Sex and Socialism: Cuba in the German Imaginary (toronto: university of toronto Press, 2012) hb 266pp. ISbn: 9781442641389

Reviewed by Stephen Wilkinson

An attractive title and an iconic cover photograph of a restored North American car shining resplendently outside the Hotel Nacional in Havana entice the reader into this insightful history of the German-Cuban relationship told from the German point of view but with a counterbalancing Cuban take at the end in the form of a short, personal essay from the celebrated Cuban writer Victor Fowler.

Indeed, the title could apply to any nation's imagined Cuba (speaking as a Briton, the alliteration would certainly sum up our response to the island), but in the case of Germany, it has a curious resonance since there were, until the end of the Cold War, two Germanies, and it is in the comparison and juxtaposition of the two very different relationships that this book most interests.

The tortured English prose of the author aside, this book is a mine of useful empirical research and theoretical applications. Any scholar intending to make a study of the cultural significance or influence of Cuba on any popular discourse should refer to this book. It is both comprehensive in scope and incisive in depth, presenting a triangulated study of the way in which the two Germanies had what the author calls 'creative misunderstandings' of what Cuba is about. Both were guilty of projecting their own ideas of utopia onto the Caribbean space - so much so that the study tells us more about the German psyche than it does about Cuba.

The examination begins in the near present with a study of the Kuba Welle, a popular movement in post-Cold War Germany, and the influence it has on reunification. Chapter 1 analyses a number of cultural artefacts that envision Cuba according to particular concerns for the new Germany. There is a study of the marketing of Cuban rum in formerly socialist East Berlin, the reception in Germany of the Wim Wenders' Buena Vista Social Club (1999), the documentary films Havanna mi amor (2000) and Heirate mich! …

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