Just when I begin to think I've seen everything that can be done with magic realism, along comes a book that shows another use - in this case magic realist satire. The scene is set for this extraordinary book with a preface explaining that the book is set in a fictional time and place and all the characters are entirely fictional: Hence, Christ has nothing to do with Jesus Christ, the son of god.... God does not represent God.... as no one has have ever been able to depict Him. JFK is someone other than an American president with the same initials... Fidel Castro perhaps has some similarities with the revolutionary leader and dictator...
Things are and are not real. What is real is the book's focus on the complexities of human (and possibly divine) nature.
Although Christ, God and JFK all have major roles, the central character is Fidel Castro, who is in many ways seen as a classic flawed tragic hero: "Are you aware that it is you who will destroy your work? That you'll end up resembling those that you overthrew?"
"This is the price I have to pay. My tragedy."
But this book is more than a tragedy about the fall of a hero. It is a commentary on the politics and fallacies of communism and capitalism, on religion and the inability of the divine to change human nature. That could be very dry, but it is a commentary delivered through the absurd and is laugh-out-loud funny in places, such as when Castro dons a pink dress and high heels in order to observe decadence in a night club or when a town threatened with invasion divides into two factions led by the priest (the Padristas) and by the local Madam (Putistas), a division which is to be decided by a wrestling match between the two leaders. In this last example the author foreshadows the duel between JFK and Castro at the end of the book.
The book is multi-layered and references all sorts of philosophies, as well as stimulating the reader's own thoughts. It manages to be a book of ideas, whilst moving the plot forward, making it an easy book to read and a good book to ponder.
I have no doubt that some people will be offended by this book. A warning should be placed on the cover directed at people who don't like authority (divine or human) to be mocked or indeed people who have difficulty with magic realism and the absurd. But if like me you are someone who grew up on Monty Python, love magic realism and enjoy contemplating ideas, then I urge you to go out and buy this book immediately.
Note I received this book from the publisher in return for an unbiased review.