Novels by the sea | Culture


The emblematic beach of Varadero (Cuba) in October of last year.
The emblematic beach of Varadero (Cuba) in October of last year.ALEXANDRE MENEGHINI / Reuters

There will be some 500 memorable novels, written in French, German, Russian, Italian and English that speak of paradise on Earth, that speak of mansions facing the sea, endless summers and the passions that those summers propel. Novels or dramas written from the 16th century to the present day, from The Tempest from Shakespeare to Diary of a castaway by García Márquez when we have the information. Because the sea has the power to elevate human life. That is why people come to Spain. That is why people also go to Cuba.

There are two Cuban novels that broke my heart in their day. One is The lost steps by Alejo Carpentier, and the other is Paradiso, scored by José Lezama Lima when we have the information. Both are very Cuban novels, despite the fact that the first takes place in Venezuela. Both are Cuban identity. How has a country as small as Cuba produced so many extraordinary novels, so many unavoidable masterpieces? Perhaps because all of Cuba is a house facing the sea and a cry of moral and political identity that astonished the world.

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If you are by the sea it seems that you are next to life. By the sea, world news, Twitter anger, Instagram photos and Facebook messages become accessories and expendable. I have never taken my mobile to the beach. But yes novels. A few days ago I started to reread The old man and the sea on the famous Mónsul beach, in Almería, a beach that Spielberg used for the second installment of Indiana Jones. A beach becomes famous if it appears in a movie or a novel. For Hemingway and also for Melville the sea was freedom. For Lezama Lima it was baroque and slow. For Carpentier the mystery, as it was also for Poe. For Virginia Woolf the sea was waves full of human words.

While I reread Hemingway, I contemplate how some vacationers build three tents in parallel on the beachfront of Mónsul. They are men and women in their thirties or thirties. They have babies. They build a mansion out of plastic. They set up two folding tables and there they put food and drink. It is a triumph of the Spanish middle class. It seems like a triumph of the imagination. We will never have a palace facing the sea, but with a little poetic skill and with good tents bought online at reasonable prices we can build a small mesocratic paradise.

That could once be Cuban communism, I think. And I remember the day I visited the Alejo Carpentier and Lezama Lima museum houses in Havana. I remember that in the Carpentier house museum a letter to Fidel Castro was exhibited in which the writer donated the economic amount of the Cervantes prize, which he had just received, to the cause of the revolution. Houses, men, revolutions wear out, are lost and disappear, but the sea and the novels remain.


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