This massive, towering novel – ostensibly about the assassination of Leon Trotsky in Mexico in 1940 by a disgruntled Spanish nationalist – is really about the festering and implosion of Soviet Communism over 50 years.
Three separate storylines cover the 50 years, back and forth, across three continents – a failed Cuban writer who meets a strange ailing man on the beach in Cuba in the late 1990s, the Spanish Communist, Ramon Cortazer, who mortally wounded Trotsky with an ice hatchet, and Trotsky himself, the intellectual original Politburo member who fell out with Stalin in 1925 and was exiled from Russia.
The style – a length, discursive, need I say dialectical style – can be bruising. Apparently the translator took pains to make it sound like the original Cuban vernacular in which it was written, so dialogue in particular sometimes features some whacked-out syntax decisions. Long, long compound and complex sentences.
To me it was an enormously educational book (assuming it’s factual) on the evolution of Soviet Communism, Trotsky’s role in digressing from Stalin’s party-line model (which argued for a Soviet-only communist system) and tacking back to Marx’s original model which called for an international worker’s revolution.