Award-winning author Mark Kurlansky presents an insider's view of Havana: the elegant, tattered city he has come to know over more than thirty years. Part cultural history, part travelogue, with recipes, historic engravings, photographs, and Kurlansky's own pen-and-ink drawings throughout, Havana celebrates the city's singular music, literature, baseball, and food; its five centuries of outstanding, neglected architecture; and its extraordinary blend of cultures.
Like all great cities, Havana has a rich history that informs the vibrant place it is today—from the native Taino to Columbus's landing, from Cuba's status as a U.S. protectorate to Batista's dictatorship and Castro's revolution, from Soviet presence to the welcoming of capitalist tourism. Havana is a place of extremes: a beautifully restored colonial city whose cobblestone streets pass through areas that have not been painted or repaired since long before the revolution.
Kurlansky shows Havana through the eyes of Cuban writers, such as Alejo Carpentier and José Martí, and foreigners, including Graham Greene and Hemingway. He introduces us to Cuban baseball and its highly opinionated fans; the city's music scene, alive with the rhythm of Son; its culinary legacy. Through Mark Kurlansky's multilayered and electrifying portrait, the long-elusive city of Havana comes stirringly to life.
"A happy hybrid, Havana: A Subtropical Delirium invokes the Cuban capital as an occasion to discuss the country's history, politics, food, architecture, music, religion and passion for baseball . . . Kurlansky approaches Havana like an Impressionist painter, building the image of this metropolis of 2 million inhabitants with subtle brushstrokes."—The Washington Post
"Biographical portraits of cities are in vogue. This lively addition to the genre is essentially a history . . . Kurlansky found international fame in 1997 with his piscatorial portrait, Cod. The lengthy list of other titles he has penned is enough to make most professional writers want to shoot themselves--not only more than a dozen non-fiction works but novels and children's books as well. The bugger is also an award-winning food writer. Narrative history is his forte, however. His vignettes of the figures who moulded Havana are excellent. The story unfurls through grisly post-independence dictatorships and ends, inevitably, with Castro. Kurlansky is even-handed."—Literary Review
"We are in good hands to explore this diabolically alluring city with New York Times bestselling author Mark Kurlansky in Havana: A Subtropical Delirium. His is an insider's view of the ramshackle charm and special cadence of Havana, its tattered and elegant surprises and pulsating fun-loving life."—New York Journal of Books
"A highly readable and entertaining account of Cuban history and culture that I found hard to put down."—San Francisco Book Review
"Havana is an electrifying and multi-layered portrait of the long-elusive city."—BookBrowse
"An affectionate, richly detailed, brief biography of a unique city.”—Kirkus Reviews
"This little gem of a book by the prolific Kurlansky is a revelation . . . At a most auspicious moment in the history of Cuba and Havana, Kurlansky, who has spent much time in the country as a journalist, writes an eloquent love letter to one of the world’s great cities."—Booklist (starred review)
"This extremely readable book is not preachy, not dogmatic, not shrill. As in life, there is a mixture of both good and evil, and Kurlansky, a frequent Cuba correspondent, covers it well."—Library Journal (starred review)
"Warmly rendered and rich with the insights of an observer intimate with his subject, this paean to the city of Havana is as engaging as it is timely. The chapters read like a series of colorful picture postcards, each one a touchstone of Havana’s history and Cuban culture."—Publishers Weekly