Magazine article World Literature Today

Heretics

Magazine article World Literature Today

Heretics

Article excerpt

Leonardo Padūra. Heretics. Trans. Anna Kushner. New York. Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 2017. 528 pages.

This rich and brilliant evocation of Jewish history will only burnish the already extraordinary reputation of the author of the acclaimed The Man Who Loved Dogs, about Trotsky's assassin, and the popular series Havana Red, Havana Blue, and Havana Gold, featuring PI Mario Conde (see WLT, May 2013, 12-17). Conde ties together this novel's many skeins of history, religion, politics, and philosophy in his search for a missing Rembrandt portrait of Christ and a missing girl, crossing generations and locations, from 1939 Havana to the present day, and going back to seventeenth-century Poland and the Netherlands to trace the Jewish diaspora.

Its four-part structure-"The Book of Daniel," "The Book of Elias," "The Book of Judith," and "Genesis"-interrogates the meaning of heresy in its many contexts. On one level Leonardo Padura explores lost faith in the Communist utopia created by Castro and the Cuban Revolution. On another he portrays one man's rejection of Judaism in 1939 when he sees the Saint Louis, with his family and nine hundred other Jews, sail back to Europe from the Havana harbor; all aboard perish in the Holocaust. …

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