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Chavarría, Daniel 1933-

Chavarría, Daniel 1933-

PERSONAL:

Born 1933, in Uruguay; immigrated to Cuba, 1969.

ADDRESSES:

Home—Havana, Cuba.

CAREER:

University of Havana, Havana, Cuba, professor of classics.

AWARDS, HONORS:

Capitán San Luis Prize (Cuba), and Aniversario de la Revolución Prize (Cuba), both for Joy; Critic Prize (Cuba), for La sexta isla; Dashiell Hammett Prize, for Allá ellos; Premio Ennio Flaiano (Italy), Premio Internacional Planeta-Joaquín Moritz (Mexico), Premio del Ministeriode Educacion y Cultura (Uruguay), and Premio de la Critica (Cuba), all for The Eye of Cybele; Critic Prize (Cuba), and Casa de las Américas Prize (Cuba), for El rojo en la pluma del loro; Edgar Award, Mystery Writers of America, 2002, for Adios muchachos.

WRITINGS:

NOVELS; UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED

Joy: Novella cubana de contraespionaje, Hacer (Barcelona, Spain), 1980.

(With Justo E. Vasco) Completo Cmaguey, Letras Cubanas (Havana, Cuba), 1983.

(Cowriter) Plaf, o Demasiado miedo a la vida (screenplay), 1988.

(With Justo E. Vasco) Contracandela, Edug (Guadalajara, Mexico), 1992.

Allá ellos, Joaquín Mortiz (Mexico City, Mexico), 1992.

Guía de lectura y léxicon de la novella "El ojo dindymenio," Graffiti (Montevideo, Uruguay), 1993.

El ojo dindymenio, Graffiti (Montevideo, Uruguay), 1993, published as El ojo de Cibeles, Linotipia Bolivar (Bogota, Colombia), 2000, translation by Carlos Lopez published as The Eye of Cybele, Akashic Books (New York, NY), 2002.

La sexta isla, D.F. Roca (Mexico City, Mexico), 1996.

A quel año en Madrid: Novella, Planeta (Mexico City, Mexico), 1998.

El rojo en la pluma del loro, Casa de las Américas (Havana, Cuba), 2001, translation by Peter Bush published as Tango for a Torturer, Akashic Books (New York, NY), 2007.

Adios muchachos, translated by Carlos Lopez, Akashic Books (New York, NY), 2001.

El aguacate y la virtud, Editorial Unicornio (Havana, Cuba), 2003.

Una pica en Flandes, Letras Cubanas (Havana, Cuba), 2004.

Viudas de sangre, Letras Cubanas (Havana, Cuba), 2004.

Pri apos, Letras Cubanas (Havana, Cuba), 2005.

SIDELIGHTS:

Classical scholar Daniel Chavarría has enjoyed a distinguished academic career and renown as a novelist, garnering an Edgar Award for Adios muchachos and several international prizes for The Eye of Cybele. Chavarría considers himself a man of three nationalities: Uruguay, his birthplace; Cuba, his adoptive home; and the land of the imagination, where he has always lived. He was an avid reader of Jules Verne, Alexandre Dumas, and Mark Twain as a boy and credits them with having made a lasting impression on him. In his own novels he expresses a decided sympathy for traditional social outcasts—thieves, prostitutes, and assorted scoundrels. He rejects the magisterial aspects of the author's identity that is adopted by some writers and has stated emphatically that he opposes cultural elitism.

Adios muchachos recounts the adventures of a bicycle-riding Havana prostitute named Alicia. When Cuba falls on difficult economic times after the Soviet pullout, Alicia abandons her student life and finds a way to make money by seducing wealthy foreign men. When she meets the handsome rogue Victor, he entices her into a more dangerous situation than she could ever have imagined, with murderous results. Critics have enthusiastically described Chavarría's book as a ribald and madcap mystery populated by a group of imaginatively hustling rascals.

In The Eye of Cybele Chavarría draws heavily on his background in classics to write a novel critics characterized as historical fiction with elements of mystery, steamy romance, and soap opera. Once again he uses a prostitute, Lysis, to propel the story forward. In the novel, Lysis is humiliated by the young Alcibiades and, as a result, dedicates herself to revenge. Her ambivalent feelings for him, his search for a fabled jewel, the eye of Cybele, and the general intensity of this period of Greek history make a complex piece of fiction. Critics gave this novel generally positive reviews, noting that Chavarría includes a sizeable glossary explaining terms and identifying mythological figures.

Chavarría's El rojo en la pluma del loro was translated by Peter Bush and published as Tango for a Torturer. Like the dance of the title, the plot is filled with twists and turns and complicated moves. The protagonist, Aldo Bianchi, an Italian born in Argentina, was tortured during the 1970s by "Triple O," who also tortured Aldo's wife, who was gang raped and killed with a cattle prod. Orlando Ortega Ortiz now lives in Havana, Cuba, under the name Alberto Rios, where he hides his past writing as a naturalist. It is in Havana that Aldo, who has vowed to take revenge, discovers the sadist, and with the help of his prostitute girlfriend Bini, Aldo frames him for a hit-and-run that Aldo actually committed.

Manuel Ramos reviewed the novel for the La Bloga Web site, describing the three characters as being "rich in contradictions, surprises and subtleties. The victim is not a pure hero. His weaknesses are deep and unpleasant, to say the least. Bini is not the whore with the heart of gold. She relishes the trappings of her wealthy customers—high-powered automobiles, flashy clothes, a dissolute life style. But the most troubling squeamishness comes from Rios." He is charming and witty, and he is writing about the horrific ways in which nature ensures the preservation of the species. There are several subplots, and the fact that two men wear the same shoe size provides a plot twist.

New York Times contributor David Gonzales, who interviewed Chavarría, wrote: "As for why he has imposed an information vacuum around his nonliterary life, he wrote [in a prepared list of questions and answers]: ‘The fact that a writer like myself, whose works sell well in Europe and Latin America, should choose to live in Havana is, for many people, as if I had chosen to live on Mars: beyond explanation…. If readers wish to stick me into some category, well, as mystery aficionados, they can very easily deduce it from my books.’ But ask him about prostitutes or the hazy underworld of Havana's hustlers, and the conversation flows as freely as his favorite three-year-old rum."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

American Libraries, May, 2002, Bill Ott, review of Adios muchachos, p. 86.

Booklist, May 1, 2003, review of Adios muchachos, p. 1553; June 1, 2007, Thomas Gaughan, review of Tango for a Torturer, p. 47.

Kirkus Reviews, April 1, 2001, review of Adios muchachos, p. 433; April 15, 2007, review of Tango for a Torturer.

Library Journal, April 1, 2002, Andrea Caron Kempf, review of Adios muchachos, p. 131; May 15, 2007, Jack Shreve, review of Tango for a Torturer, p. 78.

New York Times, July 4, 2002, David Gonzalez, "A Wry Cuban Writer as Mysterious as His Plots," interview with the author.

Publishers Weekly, June 4, 2001, review of Adios muchachos, p. 56; February 4, 2002, review of The Eye of Cybele, p. 57; April 2, 2007, review of Tango for a Torturer, p. 42.

ONLINE

Ink 19,http://www.ink19.com/ (December 11, 2007), Sheila Scoville, review of Tango for a Torturer.

La Bloga,http://labloga.blogspot.com/ (May 4, 2007), Manuel Ramos, review of Tango for a Torturer; (June 5, 2007), Michael Sedano, review of Tango for a Torturer.

Mostly Fiction,http://www.mostlyfiction.com/ (July 12, 2007), Guy Savage, review of Tango for a Torturer.

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