Reviews

Spy's Fate by Arnaldo Correa

Celia McClinton

Correa's 'Spy's Fate' is a must for any spy novel enthusiast. Beyond this, the book is an important political statement, and being written in a Cuban voice, it is an amazing one.


Spy's Fate

Publisher: Akashic Books
Length: 302
Price: $24.95 (US)
Author: Arnaldo Correa
US publication date: 2002-05
Amazon
"If anyone believes that our smiles involve abandonment of the teaching of Marx, Engels, and Lenin he deceives himself poorly. Those who wait for that must wait until a shrimp learns to whistle.
-- Nikita Khrushchev (1955)

Carlos Manuel is a high-ranking officer in the Cuban Intelligence Service who has dedicated 25 years of his life to The Revolution. But now he's fallen on hard times. His wife committed suicide. He has been brought back from Africa to a forced retirement. His children don't want him in the apartment. Then things really fall apart. While trying to save his children from their own folly in an ill-planned boat escape to America, he ends up, quite by accident, in the USA. The CIA and FBI are all atwitter because they think they've got a high-level defector, but they can't find him. The Cubans, too, are horrified because they think a high-level intelligence officer has defected. But they can't find him either.

And there follows the gist of the story, one heck of a manhunt involving the CIA, FBI, and a variety of incomprehensible Cuban agencies and military organizations all of whom blunder about irrationally. Carlos, using a combination of skill and opportunity, changes his identity more frequently than the average adult male changes his underwear. While John Wilkinson and hiding in Vermont, Carlos teaches his landlady's abusive fella a few things about good manners, then slips back to Cuba through Toronto while the feds are looking for him in Texas. Back in Cuba, some want to drop the matter, and some want to string Carlos up for treason.

About this point, the reader learns for certain what has long been suspected, that his main CIA antagonist, Timothy Sidney King, is in this manhunt for personal reasons. Long ago Carlos put a bomb under King's bed and blew his manly paraphernalia through the roof. King, determined to have his vengeance, isn't about to let Carlos escape. So, to force Carlos' return to America, he arranges the kidnapping of Carlos' daughter. Under indictment in Cuba, wanted in America, his daughter held by the evil empire, Carlos does the logical thing: he drowns in a fishing accident. The dental records prove that beyond doubt even if the rest of the body is badly nibbled by communist fish.

Tim King doesn't believe a bit of it, and neither does the reader. There are too many loose ends. In Vermont, where the new girlfriend is left mystified by the handsome stranger who has disappeared. In Florida, where the Cuban exile community is miffed for having been deceived by Tim. In Alabama, where Carlos's daughter is held by CIA hirelings who increasingly suspect things are going very wrong. Too, the sagacious reader observes that there is about a third of the novel left and thinks, 'I bet things are going to get really messy'. How true! The author, Arnaldo Correa, employs all the usual gimmicks of the genre, and adds a few new ones. He easily and convincingly handles computers and electronic surveillance. He knows how to trace identities as well as how to evade being traced. He uses his technical knowledge, and his knowledge of Cuba and America, to spin a surprisingly captivating yarn that is reminiscent of John Le Carré at his best.

But Arnaldo Correa is not John Le Carré, and that is just as well. For starters, Correa is writing in, for him, a foreign language, which means that he is always comprehensible, while Le Carré is sometimes deliberately and charmingly incomprehensible. Correa's writing flows nicely but there are places where it reads like a police report. The facts, ma'am, just the facts. Now and then, the events just are not accounted for by the available facts while some of the complicated machinations test the credulity of the reader not to mention some of the characters themselves. Le Carré would camouflage such flaws with a 'stream of consciousnesss' excursion that would leave the reader wondering what happened but certain that something did. Correa just doesn't have that tool in his kit.

The reader will have to live with these minor faults because Correa's novel is about other, more important things. Correa is no hack churning out another spy novel. He is a Cuban who has spent at least some of his life praising Castro and much of it working in far flung places in the cause of The Revolution. His subtext is political, and his portrait of Cuban-American intelligence relations is not pretty. But as Correa observes, America is in a confrontation with a rival that no longer exists. It's over, for God's sake, let's kiss and make-up.

Well, no it isn't overé. The Cuban exile community, unified in its opposition to communism, possesses a political power out of all proportion to its size. Accommodation would be its ruin. Then, too, the Cuban-American conflict long ago became personal, a war between the strangest of bedfellows on both sides. In both countries, the antagonists have too often come unstrung. They are mad as hatters. According to Correa, the personal part of the conflict will be passed on from one generation of lunatics to the next. A hundred years from now, we'll still hate each other though nobody will be able to remember why. If there is even a grain of truth in Correa's analysis, it is enough to scare the thoughtful American pink and purple. Political conflicts are bad enough. When they are personal wars among maniacs, they are worse still.

Correa's Spy's Fate is a must for any spy novel enthusiast. Beyond this, the book is an important political statement, and being written in a Cuban voice, it is an amazing one. It will interest anyone concerned with Cuban-American relations, with the intelligence community here, there or anywhere, or with international diplomatic relations, real or fictional. Its release when Americans have just been informed that Cuba is, yes indeed, part of the 'axis of evil' could hardly be more timely.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

Alright Alright's "Don't Worry" Is an Ode for Unity in Troubling Times (premiere)

Alright Alright's "Don't Worry" is a gentle, prayerful tune that depicts the heart of their upcoming album, Crucible.

Music

Tim Bowness of No-Man Discusses Thematic Ambition Amongst Social Division

With the release of his seventh solo album, Late Night Laments, Tim Bowness explores global tensions and considers how musicians can best foster mutual understanding in times of social unrest.

Music

Angel Olsen Creates a 'Whole New Mess'

No one would call Angel Olsen's Whole New Mess a pretty album. It's much too stark. But there's something riveting about the way Olsen coos to herself that's soft and comforting.

Music

Masma Dream World Go Global and Trippy on "Sundown Forest" (premiere)

Dancer, healer, musician Devi Mambouka shares the trippy "Sundown Forest", which takes listeners deep into the subconscious and onto a healing path.

Music

'What a Fantastic Death Abyss': David Bowie's 'Outside' at 25

David Bowie's Outside signaled the end of him as a slick pop star and his reintroduction as a ragged-edged arty agitator.

Music

Dream Folk's Wolf & Moon Awaken the Senses with "Eyes Closed" (premiere)

Berlin's Wolf & Moon are an indie folk duo with a dream pop streak. "Eyes Closed" highlights this aspect as the act create a deep sense of atmosphere and mood with the most minimal of tools.

Television

Ranking the Seasons of 'The Wire'

Years after its conclusion, The Wire continues to top best-of-TV lists. With each season's unique story arc, each viewer is likely to have favorites.

Film

Paul Reni's Silent Film 'The Man Who Laughs' Is Serious Cinema

There's so much tragedy present, so many skullduggeries afoot, and so many cruel and vindictive characters in attendance that a sad and heartbreaking ending seems to be an obvious given in Paul Reni's silent film, The Man Who Laughs.

Music

The Grahams Tell Their Daughter "Don't Give Your Heart Away" (premiere)

The Grahams' sweet-sounding "Don't Give Your Heart Away" is rooted in struggle, inspired by the couples' complicated journey leading up to their daughter's birth.

Music

Gloom Balloon Deliver an Uplifting Video for "All My Feelings For You" (premiere)

Gloom Balloon's Patrick Tape Fleming considers what making a music video during a pandemic might involve because, well, he made one. Could Fellini come up with this plot twist?

Film

What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .

Music

Brian Cullman Gets Bluesy with "Someday Miss You" (premiere)

Brian Cullman's "Someday Miss You" taps into American roots music, carries it across the Atlantic and back for a sound that is both of the past and present.

Music

IDLES Have Some Words for Fans and Critics on 'Ultra Mono'

On their new album, Ultra Mono, IDLES tackle both the troubling world around them and the dissenters that want to bring them down.

Music

Napalm Death Return With Their Most Vital Album in Decades

Grindcore institution Napalm Death finally reconcile their experimental side with their ultra-harsh roots on Throes of Joy in the Jaws of Defeatism.

Film

NYFF: 'Notturno' Looks Passively at the Chaos in the Middle East

Gianfranco Rosi's expansive documentary, Notturno, is far too remote for its burningly immediate subject matter.

Music

The Avett Brothers Go Back-to-Basics with 'The Third Gleam'

For their latest EP, The Third Gleam, the Avett Brothers leave everything behind but their songs and a couple of acoustic guitars, a bass, and a banjo.

Music

PM Picks Playlist 1: Rett Madison, Folk Devils + More

The first PopMatters Picks Playlist column features searing Americana from Rett Madison, synthpop from Everything and Everybody, the stunning electropop of Jodie Nicholson, the return of post-punk's Folk Devils, and the glammy pop of Baby FuzZ.

Books

David Lazar's 'Celeste Holm  Syndrome' Appreciates Hollywood's Unsung Character Actors

David Lazar's Celeste Holm Syndrome documents how character actor work is about scene-defining, not scene-stealing.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.