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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction


Adiós Hemingway

Leonardo Padura Fuentes

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Title: Adiós Hemingway
Author: Leonardo Padura Fuentes
Genre: Novel
Written: 2001 (Eng. 2005)
Length: 229 pages
Original in: Spanish
Availability: Adiós Hemingway - US
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Addio Hemingway - Italia
Adiós Hemingway - España
  • Spanish title: Adiós Hemingway
  • Translated by John King

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Our Assessment:

B+ : solid Hemingway-centred mystery

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The Guardian A 12/2/2005 Michael Dibdin
The NY Times Book Rev. . 17/4/2005 James Parker
The Observer . 6/2/2005 Alex Heminsley

  Review Consensus:


  From the Reviews:
  • "At the very least, this is a sumptuous thriller whose suspense is maintained throughout but never allowed to upstage an equally powerful insistence on character, time and place, until it is finally relaxed in an elegiac final episode of unabashed lyricism. (...) The deepest concerns of Adiós Hemingway are not its nominal subject, the unmentionable Castro, nor the ageing Mario Conde, but rather the consolations of memory and friendship within the painful process of becoming an exile in one's own country." - Michael Dibdin, The Guardian

  • "Flashing back and forth between 1958 and the present, Adiós Hemingway is an elegantly turned meditation on the cold realities of age, the waning of strength and beauty and the production of literary myth. (...) Thanks in part to John King's limpid, breezy translation, Adiós Hemingway reads cleanly and feels simple, but in his dreamy and dogged pursuit of Hemingway (...) the former Inspector Conde is as psycholiterary a gumshoe as any Paul Auster fan could wish for." - James Parker, The New York Times Book Review

  • "Fuentes's high-concept idea of a fictional detective, a non-fictional estate and a semi-fictional Hemingway shouldn't really work, but it does. (...) While the translation sometimes falters with the dialogue, this is, above all, a well-paced and beautifully characterised detective story. Alex Heminsley, The Observer" -

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Mario Conde quit police-work a few years earlier, but still hasn't completely made the transition to being a writer in Adiós Hemingway, spending more time (and earning his money) by being a middleman in the used book-trade. When a corpse is found on the old Hemingway estate and it's clear that the man was killed thirty or forty years ago Conde is back on the case. He used to revere Hemingway but, as he puts it: "I handed back my membership card." The more he learned about the old master's life, the less he liked him. But it's his belief in justice that leads him to take on the case:

I would love to find out that it was Hemingway who killed that guy. The bastard has been getting up my nose for years. But it pisses me off to think they might land him with a murder he didn't commit. That's why I'm looking into it ...
       The chapters in Adiós Hemingway alternate between Conde's contemporary detective-work and Hemingway's final days in Cuba, in October 1958, culminating in the crime and it's resolution. (Among the complications: an FBI badge is found near the corpse.)
       Conde interviews some of those who worked for Hemingway and are still alive, ancient characters with fond memories but also often something to hide. That, and the estate itself, make for a nice nostalgic look at the preservation of the icon in the minds and hearts of Cubans, a romanticized image more touching and memorable than the actual Hemingway scenes.
       There's less of a socio-political bent to this novel than Padura's 'Havana quartet', but the contrast between old Cuba and the modern state is still very clear. The old also feels corrupted -- from Hemingway's cock-fighting to the suspicion he fell under for his political leanings (more at the hands of the Americans (and the FBI) than the Cubans, of course. Meanwhile in modern Havana Conde reflects:
After all, he had been a good cop at one time, despite his dislike of firearm, violence, repression and the legal authority granted to crush and manipulate others through fear and all the macabre mechanisms of the apparatus of power. But now, he was clear about this, he was a goddamn private detective in a country with neither detectives nor private people; he felt like a bad metaphor for a strange reality. He was, he had to admit, just one more poor guy living out his little life, in a city full of ordinary guys and dull existences, without any poetic ingredient and increasingly deprived of dreams.
       A far cry from Hemingway's world and the characters he surrounded himself with, in other words. And, of course, Padura has Hemingway admit:
without my life story I wouldn't have been a writer, he said to himself
       And perhaps this is Conde's writing-block, the lack of a life story that might allow him to really get down to it (though Padura seems to have done just fine for himself ...).
       The crime (and Conde's search for clues and answers) unfolds nicely enough. Yes, much of it is about Hemingway's final good-bye to his beloved island, as well as Conde's more removed wishful thinking about a different world, and Padura ties all that together quite well.
       Fairly breezy, fairly clever, and all in all an enjoyable read.

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Adiós Hemingway: Reviews: Leonardo Padura Fuentes: Other books by Leonardo Padura Fuentes under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Cuban author Leonardo Padura Fuentes was born in 1955.

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