G. Cabrera Infante: Three Trapped Tigers (Dalkey Archive Press)

487 pgs, $14.95

Originally published in 1965, this highly regarded Cuban novel has just been re-released and will soon be adapted, in part, for the screen in a film called The Lost City, directed by Andy Garcia and featuring Benicio Del Toro. It’s a puzzling and sometimes funny book centered around Havana’s pre-Castro cabaret society and told through several narrators, including a photographer, a drummer, and a singer. The author clearly had fun writing it—there are typographical tricks, literary references to Hemingway, Faulkner, and Joyce, and pagefuls of puns (one on-a-stroll narrator insults a hanger-on as “peripathetic”), all of which make it something of a marvel to be reading this English translation that’s apparently intact. But for me the marvel ended there. I never found a story to hang onto, nor a way inside the novel’s unconventional structure (the way I did with, say, Ulysses, to which this book has been compared). And at nearly 500 pages, the book’s puns eventually stale and its hopped-up, dizzying tone tires, rather than rewards, the reader. My guess, though, is that a cinematic sliver will work wonderfully. | Stephen Schenkenberg

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