Thursday, October 21, 2010


Also dealing with a very Cuban theme, the Canadian novelist, Robert Landori, recently launched his latest novel, Havana Harvest, at a reading at Books & Books. The novel, a tour de force of international intrigue, is based on one of the most intricate episodes of Cuban history: the trial and execution of Arnaldo Ochoa in 1989. The author evokes the novel’s historical background – the landing of the Gramma and the assault of the Moncada Barracks, the presence of the young Ochoa among the revolutionaries, his elevation into the group of Camilo Cienfuegos’s intimates – and posterior events thereto that allowed Fidel Castro to seize power. He then reveals what inspired him to write the book: his friendship with “Dania” about whom he also comments in his blog.

“I would never have written Havana Harvest had I not met Dania,” he said. “It was she who introduced me to the important officials of the Cuban revolutionary government and it was she who then told me about what had befallen General Ochoa.” According to Landori, Dania and her husband had been tasked by Fidel with creating a clandestine revolutionary network in Havana, but Fulgencio Batista’s secret police captured them a few days before Batista fled the country.
“Dania” was a loyal revolutionary in the Sierra Maestra, said the novelist, with whom he remained in contact even after she had fled to the US.

Was Ochoa guilty of drug trafficking or was he made to be the scapegoat once the world found out that the Cubans were in bed with the Medellin Cartel? The novel is Landori’s answer to the question through a series of riveting and breathtaking fictional scenes in Havana, Angola, Budapest, Washington, Montreal, Panama and the Cayman Islands in which drug-money laundering and ivory smuggling take place. The characters are modeled on existing Cuban leaders and the premise is that the incident involved the CIA, implying thereby that the operation was a plot against Castro. In the end a CIA operative called Robert Lonsdale comes to the rescue of the good guys – a not-too-subtly-veiled reference to the author?

Hungarian-born Robert Landori says he is a public accountant, but he has been involved in mysterious incidents, such as his detention in a Cuban prison for over two months during the sixties, accused of spying for the CIA. Blessed with a great sense of humour that is reflected in his writing he succeeds in convincing the reader that everything happened just the way he tells it in his book.