March 22, 2023

East Valley Times

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Leonardo Batura returns to black cops with “Decent Men.”

The type of police is the type of city and corruption. In the classic detective story, the city emerges as a theme: Edgar Allan Poe, its creator, sets his story on the streets of Paris and forces Dubin to rediscover a crime that is difficult to solve in the Rue Morgue. Analytical skills. Anyone who returns to the story will find themselves inserted into the solution of the mystery, a dissertation on this new faculty, with Dubin, a narrator and a protagonist, suggesting that a puzzle can only be unraveled through reflective agreement. A sense of the general emptiness of modernity and a preoccupation with nightlife that opens up the experience of the metropolis. Therefore, it is easy to connect the first stories of that genre with another of Poe’s stories, “The Man of the Crowd”: a new sociality appeared, which was associated with the anonymity of the masses. Who’s who in town.

As a counterweight to that appearance, there was a second one, which marks the birth of a genre that dates back to the 19th century, but which offers so many differences that it’s always difficult to connect. The birth of the black police officer marked the beginning of a new character, like a fragment of a lost world of depressed and failed detectives. Someone with values ​​that no longer operate in the world he lives in.

That detective always has a strange task, many times accomplished by a Deadly woman He who does not tell everything he knows. The resolution of the puzzle involves the use of fists and encountering physical violence rather than bare mental activity, which the character certainly possesses, but which he cannot use without feeling a direct punch to the face. And, more often than not, finding the culprit is always a false encounter: in fact, only the readers and the protagonist know the name of the person responsible for the crime, because the culprit in question is the murderer. A person in a high position of politics or business who can never be reached by earthly justice.

It is not only the city that imposes itself on this story, but the corruption of the city, its new morality, which repels the detective, although, in a way, it attracts him as something inevitable. The noble police give us the city. Black police, corruption.

In this series, we might well say that Mario Conte, the detective created by Leonardo Batura in the early 1990s, adds an important Latin American and Caribbean perspective to the equation.It reframes what the city and corruption mean from a perspective that, with its accretions and tendencies, is ours (and, therefore, universal). Decent people, the last novel in the series of this particular detective, is undoubtedly a text that recovers these topics to talk about Havana at two different moments in its history and to point to a third moment in the 1970s on the island. Three milestones together in the story of corruption form the heart of Havana’s geography. At least, that’s what he thinks and neither the Count himself, nor Patura, is tired of saying, “Interrupted.”

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The novel again presents us with a story on two levels. Happened in other works like Transparency of time (2018) Oh Religious fanatics (2013), We are in Decent people Trying to resist the cynicism and pessimism that exists in a Mario Conte Cuba (he’s over 60 years old) with the expected amount of nostalgia that brings a certain sweetness to the already tired life of a former policeman turned salesman. Used books (We read of his reappearance after letting the army in Goodbye Hemingway2001 onwards).

Manuel Palacios, Manolo, an old colleague who is still active, contacts him, causing him to follow the usual path of any supposedly retired detective: there’s a murder, we don’t know who’s responsible, we need you. And so, Conte returns to the ring, curiously, and overwhelmingly, by the very nature of the victim: Reynaldo Quevedo. Who is Quevedo? A mediocre poet, an opportunist, a “confessed Stalinist” (underlines the novel) he became the quintessential censor in the 70s. To limit the creative freedom of artists and to tighten the screws on what they created, they persecuted artists of all kinds in response to their unique perspective on art and culture.

We study Decent people: “Guedo was chosen as an inquisitor and because of genetic coded evil as the leader of the process of persecution, persecution and marginalization by many Cuban writers and artists during the years of his perfect training regime. Among his victims, including the later celebrated José Lezama Lima and Virgilio Piñera, of all colors and There were those with sizes, and some irreducible ones like the playwright Alberto Marquez. Censor Quevedo, the Quevedo Beast, now three fingers missing, was found dead with his penis severed. How can we not draw attention to the analytical spirit that was always deep with these data, no matter how little he felt?

The context of this first plot couldn’t be more significant, and the reality of the city that Batura seems to want enters (always, critically): in the middle of 2016, Havana experienced an unusual spring, albeit briefly . “A miracle,” said the author, that Cuba and the United States became close again after many differences on December 17, 2014, the day of Saint Lazarus, like almost everyone else. He asks for the impossible.

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In that 2016, three events came together in a place believed to be outside any confluence of the capitalist West: a Rolling Stones concert, a Chanel parade and the visit of Barack Obama. All three events lead to a renaissance of the city, with businesses popping up out of nowhere, cars modified to receive tourists, and all the security forces distracted by the commotion. What better time to commit a murder, Quevedo’s. Then another, of course, points out that the first is not an ordinary phenomenon. As any detective short-haired psychoanalyst would say, this chain has a possible meaning.

Business is business

Earlier than later, Decent people It begins to function as a text that raises questions about what morality is, what it means to follow an assumed moral path and try to conform to those principles. But, above all, what is the connection between what we do, our jobs, and the idea of ​​dignity that seems so common to a retreating world? For this reason, Conde acts as a fragment of the world that disappears there. From a world believed to disappear as Conte sees the arrival of the Stones or Obama will change little on the island. That new breath lasts until the triple advent. Conde looks at 2016 through 2017 eyes, which the story’s numbers don’t know, but the real-life writer does: Trump will come after Obama, and efforts to re-establish ties between the two countries run deeper, Bhatura says. Separated turns out to be just that, attempts, and things don’t really get off to a happy start.

We told two stories. Havana’s excitement to return to the center of the world scene quickly merges with the second plot, which presents a first-person narrator, Arturo Saborit Amarco, a policeman who finds himself at the turn of the new century. In the middle of a conflict between pimps. Between the two main figures for “Nice of America”, they presented Havana at that time or in 2016. Who are the opposition parties? Alberto Yarini, a character drawn from real life, became known in the early 1900s as the most prominent “pimp” he could find, and his legend continues to this day. A cosmopolitan man, with refined clothes and gestures of knowing more about the world than the world believes. His opponent in business was a newcomer, a bad one, a foreigner, a Frenchman. Louis Lotot (not so) is a newcomer to the underworld scene who seems to be disputing territory with Yarini. The murder of Margarita Alcántara, or Margó “la Tetona”, was a crime of incitement, as the honest policeman lost his innocence on the fateful night of November 21, 1910, as he stated in his first post. A few months after Halley’s Comet arrives, he warns us that it will kill a man. And it remains to be seen what kind of advantage the Stones and Obama can get out of the situation, as they’re set to produce later.

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This structure of parallel montage, to use the common term of cinematography, is one that Badura has used extensively since Conde’s return. Goodbye Hemingway: The detective (like all good professionals, at least officially he has ceased to be one) is interested in a current event that always connects to situations related to the constitution of contemporary Havana. As if Conte were an archaeologist, he has two investigations in front of him: first, the crime shown as a stimulus, Alfred Hitchcock’s famous “McGuffin” inspires the interest of any reader. But then, very soon, the going back begins, told in chapters that alternate with the investigations of a depressed investigator, always linked to a triggering event or object. In Religious fanaticsFor example, a Rembrandt canvas evokes the memory of a ship full of Jewish immigrants unable to disembark from the city and returning to the same environment that brought them to Germany. In the end, they could not escape the horror. The same structure can be seen Transparency of time, where it is a statue of a black Madonna, prompts the book’s retrograde movement towards redemption, in this case, a memory that goes back through various journeys to talk about the Spanish Civil War and the times. Near Middle Ages. Thus, Havana is the center of the world, a point from which to study all of Western history, or, at least, some significant moments. It is that strategy that allows Badura to construct an in-between space as a writer: a writer critical of the government who never left Havana, one could say that he stayed there because his literature required that perspective. Inside and outside, localized, yet global, Batura sees the world as Conde, almost a brother, someone almost his own age and who officially begins as a writer in this novel..

Decent people It’s a worthy sequel to the Mario Conte series, but it has the plus of portraying a Havana that’s actually changing, without being so depressing. So the antithesis of early 20th-century history, cosmopolitan Havana, the center of the world, is colored by a disillusionment that has served as a mirror of censored crime since the 1970s. A city that could have been and wasn’t in both storylines. But, despite everything, this phantasmagoria is fed. The crime Conte investigates, in short, traverses 20th-century Cuban history with its savagery and its sweetness, its dreams and its possibilities. Above all with Bhatura: so to speak with his literature.