Teoría y práctica de La Habana
Rubén Gallo

NON-FICTION | 2017 | 323 pages

Theory and Practice of Havana recalls the explosive adventures narrated by Reinaldo Arenas in  Before Night Falls, but the narrative style owes more to Marcel Proust: a search of things lived in Havana.

Havana, in the midst of a historical transition, is a delirious space: the only city in the world featuring state-owned gay bars staffed by civil servants; a place where, until recently, bookstores were underground and today one of them doubles as dog shelter and male brothel; a Latin American capital where fresh milk is a coveted luxury item; a land where most Cubans live their lives according to the quirky precepts of Santeria, the Afro-Cuban religion; a country where most people get around hitchhiking, turning every car into a miniature form of mass transit and a platform for improvised conversation and impromptu promiscuity.

All this —and more— appears in the pages of Theory and Practice of Havana, a work of autofiction narrating scenes of everyday life in Havana from Obama’s historical announcement in 2014 to the death of Fidel Castro in 2016. The cast of characters include: a blond transvestite, a band of male prostitutes, some of Havana’s most famous writers, poets, and artists, peasants newly arrived from the countryside, a mad bookseller and one or two lost foreigners. In this fluid reality that is everyday life in Cuba, all boundaries disappear: between high and low, local and foreign, poetic and prosaic.

Theory and Practice of Havana narrates the ups and downs of Rubén, the protagonist who arrived in Havana on December 17, 2014, the day the reestablishment of diplomatic relations with Washington was announced, as he learns to make his way through a very different reality. His adventure include: trying to find fresh milk in Havana, traveling with hitch-hikers across the island, being inducted into the rituals of santería, but above all, nights spent at Las Vegas and other gay locales in Havana, where hustlers and transvestites rub elbows with poets and artists. Along the way, he meets Nicolás, a young Cuban-born architect who was taken to Spain as a boy and now returns to the Island for a trip of discovery.

RIGHTS: spanish JUS

Teoría y práctica de La Habana is a very interesting review of the magical delirium that, hidden under the heavy tombstone of an anachronistic regime, catches a glimpse of each individual or collective action of a people whose daily feat is “resolver” (figure out) and find an way out of all the labyrinths with which the System subdues its citizens. Certainly, La Habana is the permanent staging of many alienations and a couple of frenzies, where fiction and reality blend perfectly and where the language is, as Gallo points out, a way of hiding and dodging the obsessive control of the authorities, willing to penetrate every nook of Cubans’ life.
— Carlos Herrera, El País
With an agile prose devoid of prejudices and a critical sense of humor, Rubén Gallo puts us face to face with the reality of living, and living badly, in a degenerating Havana, a city of authorized vices.
— Mundiario