The Caribbean is a sea of many mysteries, of color and ghosts, of miscegenation and palm trees. A historical enclave explored several times by literature through these next best books set in the Caribbean.
The Wonderful Real, by Alejo Carpentier
After his contact with the Baroque and surrealism during his years in Europe, Alejo Carpentier returned to his native Cuba with a backpack loaded with new influences and stories that would reinvent Caribbean and Latin American letters forever. The kingdom of this world is the masterpiece of this fusion and of the concept of ” the wonderful real “, similar but not equal to magical realism, framed in the time of the Haitian revolution seen through the eyes of a slave, Ti Noel , and his contact with the uprisings, evolution and supernatural elements that permeate one of the great novels of the 20th century .
The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
Hemingway was always an inveterate traveler : France, Spain, Africa and, finally, an American continent with which he reconciled by getting lost in places like the Florida Keys or, especially, Cuba. It would be in the Caribbean country where the Nobel Prize would foster his passion for sailing and the sea, for the stories of fishermen that he knew how to capture so well in The Old Man and the Sea, his greatest work. Published in 1952, the story of the elderly fisherman Santiago and his odyssey to catch the biggest fish his community has ever seen is not only a perfect exercise in suspense, but also a great metaphor for the pride that each human being tries to achieve in different ways.
Before Night Falls, by Reinaldo Arenas
A large part of the stories that came out of Cuba during the second half of the 20th century alluded to a Cuban Revolution whose consequences hit a generation of intellectuals and thinkers obsessed with fleeing the island of Fidel Castro. One of them, the homosexual writer Reinaldo Arenas, was persecuted for his ideas and sexual orientation until he later moved to New York City, where he ended up committing suicide in 1990 after suffering from AIDS for years. Before his death, Arenas left this book as a testimony , a brutal review of revolutionary Cuba that would be adapted by director Julian Schnabel in 2001 into the homonymous film starring Javier Bardem.
Haven’t you read Before Nightfall yet?
Love in the Time of Cholera, by Gabriel García Márquez
Considered one of Gabo’s great works , the book was published in 1985, instantly becoming a bestseller. Set in a city in the Colombian Caribbean that could perfectly well be Cartagena de Indias, the novel tells the eventful love story of Florentino Ariza and Fermina Daza , the latter married to Dr. Juvenal Urbino. A story of forbidden passions where the Caribbean, the river cruises on the Magdalena River or the colorful houses and bougainvillea create an exuberant universe that leads us to one of the best endings in literature .
The Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys
Conceived as a prequel to Charlotte Brontë’s famous novel Jane Eyre , The Wide Sargasso Sea was published in 1966 after years of absence by Dominica-born writer Jean Rhys. The novel, set in the post-colonial Caribbean, tells the story of Antoinette Cosway, a young Creole white woman caught between the island customs of Jamaicans and a European patriarchy to which she succumbs after marrying and moving to England. From then on, various rumors began to circulate about a woman who went crazy and ended up locked in an attic. The novel was a bestseller and received unanimous applause from critics who finally recognized Rhys’s work.
The Feast of the Goat, by Mario Vargas Llosa
For years, the greatest dictator in the Caribbean was Rafael Leónidas Trujillo , the top leader of a Dominican Republic subjected to the whims of the government during the 1950s and until Trujillo’s assassination in May 1961. A review of the island’s history through through three perspectives: that of the dictator himself, that of his assassins, and that of a young Dominican woman who returns to the island in the 1990s to fight her demons. Published in the year 2000, the book not only became one of the great works of Mario Vargas Llosa but also of contemporary Latin American literature.
A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James
Winner of the Booker Prize in 2015 , A Brief History of Seven Killings is an immersion in that dark Caribbean of the second half of the 20th century in which mafia gangs and drug dealers converged. A set of influences executed by the band Shower Posse , which began to wreak havoc in Jamaica after the country’s independence in 1962 to expand to the United States and end up establishing the crack empire. A trip to the recent history of Jamaica where there is no shortage of references to personalities such as Bob Marley , a singer who received a visit from seven gunmen at his home two days before the celebration of the Smile Jamaica concert through which the artist «No woman, no cry » tried to appease a troubled country.