Cover image for Tales from the Cuban empire
Tales from the Cuban empire
Ponte, Antonio José, 1964-
Personal Author:
Uniform Title:
Cuentos de todas partes del imperio. English
Publication Information:
San Francisco : City Lights Books, [2002]

Physical Description:
90 pages ; 19 cm
Prologue: plea for the head of Scheherazade -- Tears in the Congrí -- Because of men -- A knack for making ruins -- At the request of Ochún -- The summer in a barbershop -- Epilogue: plea for the head of Mazarino.
Subject Term:
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X Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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In the manner of fabled storytellers, Ponte creates a vivid picture of contemporary Cuba-its real and imagined place in the world-through stories told by a foreign exchange physics student, urban planners who discover an underground metropolis in their own neighborhood, a traveler stranded in an airport restroom, a suspicious stranger listening to stories spun in a barbershop, and a Chinese butcher in love with a beautiful daughter of Ochun. This inventive brew of fantasy, popular religion, science and science fiction, travel adventure, and tall tales celebrates the Cuban spirit at home and abroad.

Antonio Jose Ponte(born 1964 in Matanzas, Cuba) lives in Havana. He is the author of poetry, essays, novels, and stories.

"In a Spartan voice, frugal and brave, Havana-based writer Antonio José Ponte becomes a skillful Scheherazade who spins a fantastic collection of short stories that reads like a Cuban 'Arabian Nights'." --Miami Herald

"In this collection of stories, each told with a wild mania, the narrators, like Scheherazade, are desperate to save their lives by telling their story.... Each story loops back upon itself, arrives at an inconclusive end and should be read once more." --Los Angeles Times

"Unlike exiled writers who see the island as either a mythical homeland or a political cause, Ponte paints a picture that will strike the U.S. reader as surreal in its simplicity. . . . Cool, assured and quietly insightful, these tales provide rare glimpses into a Cuba often lost behind newspaper headlines." --Publishers Weekly

"Ponte writes in a spare style more akin to Eastern European writers than anything usually associated with the bounty of the Caribberan, Cuban or otherwise. His sentences are short and sharp, his settings bleak and cold. . . . Smart and haunting . . ." --Village Voice Literary Supplement

Author Notes

Antonio Jose Ponte was born in Matanzas and lives in Havana. He is the author of fiction, poetry, and essays

Reviews 1

Publisher's Weekly Review

In the five elliptical short stories of Tales from the Cuban Empire, Antonio Jose Ponte (In the Cold of the Malecon) explores some curious corners of contemporary Cuba. A student of nuclear physics on a sojourn in the Soviet Union, a distraught woman in an airport bathroom, an urban planner with a Borgesian secret, a Chinese butcher in search of the heart of an elephant and an undercover inspector listening to stories in a barbershop are Ponte's cryptic protagonists. The slight stiffness of the translation by Cola Franzen and the purposefully oblique narration make these fictions hard nuts to crack, but Ponte deserves credit for his fresh take on the much-mythologized island. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Table of Contents

Prologue: Plea for the Head of Scheherazadep. 1
Tears in the Congrip. 3
Because of Menp. 13
A Knack for Making Ruinsp. 21
At the Request of Ochunp. 45
The Summer in a Barbershopp. 65
Epilogue: Plea for the Head of Mazarinop. 89