The Halfway House Paperback – Apr 28 2009
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Confronting an impassive world, Guillermo Rosales has left us this painful, violent, and lyrical testament. — Le Figaro
It seems almost impossible to find so much cruelty in barely one hundred pages; but it’s just that behind these terrible and moving one hundred pages there are thousands of pages, millions of sentences, that reveal an entirely destroyed universe. Indispensable. — Revista Leer
The real brilliance is…its portrait of a man...reduced to the very cruelty he had tried to avoid. — Jascha Hoffman (The National)
This book is a shot of light through the darkness of human misery. — Jeff Waxman (Three Percent)
The characters in the halfway house are tragically beautiful and unforgettable. — Susan Salter Reynolds (Los Angeles Times)
Perfect for the pool and beyond. — Joy Tipping (Fort Worth Star-Telegram)
A masterful kick-in-the-teeth…savagely beautiful. — Bill Marx (The World, Public Radio International)
Hope inevitably implodes into disappointment, and love…curdles with the possibility of destruction. — Abigail Deutsch (The Literary Review)
We are fortunate to have this award-winning book finally available to English-speaking readers. Very powerful and gripping. — Bessy Reyna (Multicultural Review)
With The Halfway House, Rosales joins the pantheon of the very best Cuban writers, José Lezama Lima, Pinera, and Reinald Arenas. — Thomas McGonigle (Review of Contemporary Fiction)
About the Author
Anna Kushner was born in Philadelphia and first traveled to Cuba in 1999. Beside her “commanding translation” (Words Without Borders) of The Halfway House (ND, 2009), her writing and translations have appeared in numerous other print and web publications.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
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.
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.