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Telex from Cuba [Paperback]

Rachel Kushner
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)

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Book Description

2 Jun 2009

The New York Times bestselling debut novel by the author of the Folio Prize shortlisted The Flamethrowers

*A New York Times bestseller*

*Finalist for the National Book Award in Fiction*

Fidel and Raúl Castro are in the hills, descending only to burn sugarcane plantations and recruit rebels.

Rachel K is in Havana's Cabaret Tokio, entangled with a French agitator trying to escape his shameful past.

Everly and K.C. are growing up in the dying days of a crumbling US colony, about to discover the cruelty and violence that have created their childhood idyll.

--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 322 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner Book Company; Reprint edition (2 Jun 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416561048
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416561040
  • Product Dimensions: 20.3 x 13.5 x 2.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 331,514 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"Rachel Kushner's debut novel is an absolute blinder... Like the sea which surrounds Cuba, Telex From Cuba is ever-shifting, and it is luminous" (The Times)

"If you relish glittering language that pursues emotional and political truth, you'll be enthralled by Telex from Cuba... the atmosphere seethes and crackles... [a] lush, intoxicating book" (Independent)

"Telex from Cuba is epic and enjoyable: the style is lush and precise; the parties and cookouts, the drinks and affairs are beautiful and poignant, full of the pleasures of wealth overshadowed by loss." (Anne Enright Guardian)

"Fascinating and vividly detailed... You can almost feel the heat radiating from the page: the air is mosquito-thick and tainted with a nickel oxide haze, the tropical landscape a character in its own right" (Observer)

"A piece of fiction quite breathtaking in its assurance [.] a beautifully weighted treatise on colonial attitudes, capitalism, racism and the interactions and divisions between cultures and classes" (Billy O'Callaghan Irish Examiner)

"A lush, meticulous, cinematic debut novel" (Elle)

"Kushner evokes a dreamlike paradise... A poignant tale" (Antonia Charlesworth Big Issue)

"[Kushner's] cleverly counterposed registers and nuanced explanation of the way we make and remake ourselves elevates her book beyond the standard historical romp" (David Annand Sunday Telegraph)

"Detail-packed prose" (Glasgow Herald)

"Deeply evocative... A fascinating and vividly detailed portrait of the country" (Natasha Tripney Observer)

"An intriguing, multifaceted portrait of a society in flux" (David Evans Independent on Sunday)

"A pure treat from the cover to the very last page" (Washington Post)

"Mutli-layered and absorbing... Kushner's style is sure and sharp, studded with illuminating images... Kushner has fashioned a story that will linger like a whiff of decadent Colony perfume" (New York Times Book Review)

"Fresh and compelling. Kushner takes us to a place and time we've seldom visited before" (San Francisco Chronicle)

"A stunner of a novel... A fluid, eye-opening symphony of a book" (Seattle Times) --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Book Description

The New York Times bestselling debut novel by the author of the Folio Prize shortlisted The Flamethrowers --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Viva la Revolucion! 11 Nov 2013
By Kate Hopkins TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Kushner's first novel is an account of the Cuban Revolution, led by Fidel Castro, told largely from the point of view of the Americans living in Cuba in the 1950s, in particular a group living in Oriente Province who worked for the United Fruit Company and who mostly supported Cuba's tyrannical president Batista. Kushner has a vast cast of Americans, including two teenagers (K.C. Stites and Everly Lederer - why both the male Stites and the female Lederer have such androgynous Christian names in the 1950s I'm not sure), their parents and siblings, an unhappy wife who has a crush on a Cuban factory owner, a working-class American family who are trying their luck away from the USA and various other couples in various degrees of prosperity and right-wingery. There are also a couple of teen rebels - K.C.'s older brother Del, and a boy called Phillip Mackey - who sympathise with Castro's cause. Alongside their story runs another, set in Havana, which tells the adventures of Christian de La Maziere, a French aristocrat who joined the Nazis in World War II and is now offering his sympathy to Castro's men, without much caring for their cause, and a 'zazou' dancer called Rachel K, who pretends to be French but is in fact Cuban, who is spying for Castro, and sleeping with him, Batista and La Maziere. Kushner plays around with reality here, as La Maziere was a real person - but never in fact went to Cuba or was involved in the revolution.

Kushner describes Cuba in the 1950s immaculately, and I learnt a good deal about the politics of the time that I hadn't known before reading the book. She painted a convincing and interesting picture of ex-pat American life in Cuba, and of the seedy glamour of Havana.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Writing is Gorgeous, the Story Intense 4 Mar 2009
I started this book without a clue as to what it was about, as I like to approach a book fresh and I have to say I was pleasantly surprised. The writing is gorgeous, the story intense, even though I knew right from the start how it had to end, and the history, well let's just say it's a piece of history I didn't learn in school.

Much of the story takes place in the fine homes of the expatriates who run the United Fruit company based in Preston and the nickel mines in Nicaro in Cuba's Oriente province. A Poor Place for Cubans to live, not so for the Americans who lived in a kind of opulence which reminds one of the pre Civil War South in the United States. Like those Americans back then, these Americans don't mingle with those they perceive to be beneath them, many treat the Cubans like slaves. If the Americans only knew, only cared how the Cubans thought about them, maybe the story would have had a different ending.

Not only do the Americans think they are a class or two above the Cubans, but they separate themselves into classes as well. At the top of the heap are the Stiteses, headed by Malcolm Stites, the tough and brutal head of the United Fruit Company. Next in line are the Lederers who live in Nicaro and who's patriarch is the manager of the Nickel Mine. And then there is the Allains, who are poor refuges from Louisiana. However poor though they might have been their class status is infinitely higher than it would have been back in Cajun country.

Events in the country seem to go unnoticed by the Americans who live in their enclaves and, you know, Cuba then isn't the only place that happens. I have a friend who is a Geologist and he's told me stories about the Americans who lived in the expat compounds in Libya and I have to wonder if we can ever learn.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Good read 16 Jun 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Interesting on background history of Cuba which I didn'tt know anything about
Variety of characters
Perhaps a bit diffuse
Worth reading
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
By Stephanie De Pue TOP 1000 REVIEWER
TELEX FROM CUBA, Rachel Kushner's debut novel came trailing praise by the New York Times as one of the 100 most notable books of 2008. And these days, critics are getting excited about Kushner's latest release, The Flamethrowers, which I've not yet had a chance to read.

However, I read and greatly liked TELEX. It is set in a time and place that are deeply interesting to me, Cuba in the late 1950's, as Fidel Castro's recruits gathered in the hills, ready to kick out then president for life, General Fulgencio Batista, and take over the country. The novel, set in the American community - read the United Fruit community, in Oriente province, a rural, tropical Eden for a while, for the few ex-pats who tended the sugar cane business, is the first to be set in this milieu, and tell this story: the Americans were to be evicted in 1958.

Other reviewers have criticized the historical accuracy of the work. Well, all I know about Cuba, I learned from repeatedly listening to the 1997 record, Buena Vista Social Club; and viewing the DVD: Buena Vista Social Club [1999] [DVD]. I've never gone there, and doubt that I ever will: still I greatly enjoyed the views of the beautiful seaside, pastel city of Havana, the lush countryside, and oh! The music. I found TELEX to have packed a lot into its pages: a panoramic, complex, multi-character plot. Other reviewers have also criticized Kushner's use of children as narrators; I'm not generally a great lover of children in books, but this didn't bother me this time.
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