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Halfway House, The [Paperback]

Guillermo Rosales

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Book Description

April 28 2009 New Directions Paperbook

Never before available in English, The Halfway House is a trip to the darkest corners of the human condition. Humiliations, filth, stench, and physical abuse comprise the asphyxiating atmosphere of a halfway house for indigents in Miami where, in a shaken mental state, the writer William Figueras lives after his exile from Cuba . He claims to have gone crazy after the Cuban government judged his first novel “morose, pornographic, and also irreverent, because it dealt harshly with the Communist Party,” and prohibited its publication. By the time he arrives in Miami twenty years later, he is a “toothless, skinny, frightened guy who had to be admitted to a psychiatric ward that very day” instead of the ready-for-success exile his relatives expected to welcome and receive among them. Placed in a halfway house, with its trapped bestial inhabitants and abusive overseers, he enters a hell. Romance appears in the form of Frances, a mentally fragile woman and an angel, with whom he tries to escape in this apocalyptic classic of Cuban literature.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 144 pages
  • Publisher: New Directions; 1 edition (April 28 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0811218023
  • ISBN-13: 978-0811218023
  • Product Dimensions: 20 x 13 x 1 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 136 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #2,036,133 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.4 out of 5 stars  5 reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing! June 28 2010
By bulldog_fan - Published on
I found this gem in a used bookstore. I see it hasn't been reviewed many times, and that's such a shame. This quick read is incredibly entertaining and moving. Give this book a chance and you won't be able to put it down!!
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Brutal and Beautiful Oct. 13 2009
By G. Dawson - Published on
Guillermo Rosales, a Cuban-American writer who suffered from mental illness, committed suicide in 1993 after destroying most of his work. The Halfway House survived and is the first of Rosales's novels to be translated into English.

In this autobiographical novel (a novella, really), Rosales's protagonist, William Figueras, flees to Miami from Cuba. Instead of the "future winner" Figueras's relatives expect to greet at the airport, they discover "a crazy, nearly toothless, skinny, frightened guy who had to be admitted to a psychiatric ward that very day." After a couple unsuccessful moves, Figueras's relatives eventually abandon him to a decrepit halfway house. The Halfway House, comprising Figueras's first-person narrative of his life in the halfway house, begins with this characteristically dark and pointed line: "The house said `boarding home' on the outside, but I knew that it would be my tomb."

This compact novel (under 150 pages) is structured around the routines of the halfway house: its inedible meals, the residents' unsanitary habits, the nightly dramas of sexual abuse, and Figueras's rambling walks through the city. The Halfway House's elegant structure contrasts markedly with its squalid subject. In another stark contrast, Figueras exhibits very few symptoms of mental illness and, thus, finds himself in a position of relative power. As if from the perspective of an objective observer, Figueras's narrates his own gradual transition from victim to victimizer and then back again. Although he exerts some control over his status as a victim or a victimizer, his attempts to break out of the cycle altogether fail.

Anna Kushner's masterful translation retains the bite of Rosales's prose and also its subtle humor and playfulness. The Halfway House reveals the horror of a halfway house run by unscrupulous men and, at the same time, the beauty of the residents' undeniable humanity.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An unflinching but humor filled look at mental illness July 19 2009
By Darryl R. Morris - Published on
Like the author, the narrator of The Halfway House, William Figueras, is a Cuban writer who emigrates to Miami, and meets his expatriated relatives, who are disappointed to learn that the "future winner" they were expecting is, instead, a "crazy, nearly toothless, skinny, frightened guy who had to be admitted to a psychiatric ward that very day because he eyed everyone in the family with suspicion and, instead of hugging and kissing them, insulted them." After he spends six months in and out of psychiatric wards, his aunt drops him off at a halfway house that caters to Latinos, telling him that "nothing more can be done."

William very quickly learns that he has landed in Hell. His housemates are all demented, stuffing toilets with clothes and relieving themselves all over the house. The owner, Mr. Curbelo, steals their Social Security checks, and provides them with less amenities than the worst jail. Order is kept by several "employees", especially Arsenio, who steals from and beats the male residents, and rapes the female ones. Out of anger and frustration, William also begins to physically and sexually abuse his housemates, earning him the respect of Arsenio.

One day a young, innocent and disturbed woman, Frances, becomes a resident. William immediately takes to her, and the two create a plan to escape from the halfway house and build a life together. However, Mr. Curbelo and Arsenio have a plan for them.

This novella, although quite sad, was not morbidly depressing, as it is infused with warmth and humor, and the narrator does not descend into madness or despair despite his obvious pain and anguish.
5.0 out of 5 stars Haunting Sept. 15 2011
By Karol Nielsen - Published on
This is a spare, slim novel about a Cuban writer whose American dream begins and ends in a Halfway House in Miami, a haunting story of shattered dreams.
1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Wow! June 10 2009
By S. G. - Published on
This book is pretty incredible. The characters are so well-developed and there is such personality throughout the book. The story itself is happy, sad, desperate, disturbing and exciting all in one. You feel as though you are with the characters, watching the story unfold right in front of you. Great book! I highly recommend it, it's also a quick read. You'll be glad you read it.

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