By Nancy Alonso
This Bilingual edition was released in February, 2012. (ISBN
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The author and her work:
Nancy Alonso entered Cuba's literary scene with Tirar la primera piedra (Casting the First Stone) in 1997 and immediately made an impact. Her first book was in part a reaction to the plight of "balseros" heading out to sea on makeshift rafts in the most desperate times of the "Special Period." Her second work, Cerrado por reparación (Closed for Repairs, 2007 Curbstone Press), was a series of eleven humorous vignettes depicting Cuban ingenuity in the face of urban problems, and won the 2002 prize for Women's Narrative "Alba de Céspedes." Now with Desencuentro (Disconnect), released in Spanish in 2008, Alonso makes love in all its diverse facets the essential connection between the twelve stories. Yet each one has an internal disconnect of one type or another, revealing the inherent contradictions of life itself. In Disconnect we have a whole gamut of human relations including lesbian love, unconventional mother and son ties, chance encounters, interwoven destinies and even a dreamed death. Consistently characteristic of Alonso's fiction is her creation of everyday scenes and dialogues that are universally understood yet deeply rooted in Cuban reality. She is a masterful observer of human foibles, revealing missteps and hypocrisy with a sure touch and letting her readers discover the many ways that people connect and disconnect with the world around them.
The release of this bilingual edition of Disconnect/Desencuentro will give readers the double pleasure of savoring the subtle humor and word play that is only fully present in the original Spanish language even as they have access to a sophisticated translation that deepens understanding for anyone not fluent in Spanish (or in Cuban cultural norms).
Translation by Anne Fountain
Read reviews in Spanish about the original Desencuentro:
Antonio López Sánchez. “Reencuentro desde las páginas.” Appeared in the online weekly periodical Mujeres (#422) January 29, 2009.
Rolando López de Amo. “Al encuentro del desencuentro.” Appeared at Cubarte, the online Portal of Cuban Culture, June 4, 2009.
Reviews of Nancy Alonso's Closed for Repairs (2007 Curbstone Press), also translated by Anne Fountain:
From Publishers Weekly
In 11 too-brief, charming tales, Cuban author Alonso gently pokes fun at the irksome living conditions in her home country. In "Caesar," a family starved for the taste of meat-unavailable and prohibitively expensive to the regular workers-decide to raise a pig for slaughter, but become very attached to the clean, well-behaved Caesar. More gruesome is the plight of Berta in "The Test," who prolongs the ulcer that ensures she'll continue to receive the dietary supplement to her food rations. "Mutiny on Board" presents a satisfying revolt by a busload of workers mortally tired of being cheated by the bus drivers and fare collectors on Cojímar's route 58. A gap "like a giant stomach, constantly devouring" garners national attention but little repair in "The Story of a Pothole," while a the couple seeking a new home in "Never Finished" try to navigate the bewildering system of Cuban house trading, permutar. Throughout, Alonso finds a redemptive humor amid privation and heartache.
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The resilience of the Cuban people during the economically depressed mid-1990s, the so-called Special Period, is showcased in eleven short stories from Alonso (Casting the First Stone, 1997). Brief vignettes are linked by characters' ingenuity in solving everyday urban troubles, be it lack of water, hazardous potholes, shoddy public transportation, or deficient materials for repairing deteriorating buildings. In the sly "Mutiny on Board," a group of determined citizens spontaneously take over a bus after the driver allows employees to board first. In "Never Finished," a couple considers a move from their old, leaky house, forcing them to contend with the Cuban approach to real estate, which entails a complicated legal process. The result is an amusing, yet stirring, resolution to their increasingly convoluted options. Alonso's sparse prose and absurdist narrative move at a sprightly pace, allowing the keen wit behind the tales to sink in and provoke a thoughtful chortle and create a memorable impression of human resolve. Strauss, Leah
"Closed for Repairs exhibit[s] Cubano spirit and cleverness in the face of depravation, shortage, and dysfunction--making for compelling narratives and survival tales." -- The Morning News
"There's much to reflect upon, and they are as memorable as if told by your own family...A great read!" -- BlogCritics Magazine
"The poignancy and pathos resonate, as does the triumph of the human spirit. All in all: a wonderful read." -- Louis A. Pérez, Jr., University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
"A journey filled with raw emotion, often accompanied with humour and ideas that provoke and inspire." -- The Literary Word