Havana Blue (Original title: Pasado Perfecto) – Leonardo Padura

Padura, L. Pasado perfecto (2000). Barcelona. Tusquets Editores. 1ª edición en colección Maxi: febrero de 2010. 240 p. ISBN: 978-84-8383-558-6.

Havana Blue is the first novel in the Mario Conde series. Its original title in Spanish Pasado Perfecto (Past perfect) hides an ironic reference to both the “perfect past” of Rafael Morin and the “perfect past” of Cuba, before the so call “special period in time of peace”, an extended period of economic crisis that began in 1991 after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Although the action takes place in 1989, the first Cuban edition was published in 1991. It is also interesting to note that past and present play the same roll during the action. Padura uses the third person to refer to actual facts while he uses the first person on Mario Conde’s flashbacks.

The action takes place during the first days of 1989. On January 1, Lieutenant Mario Conde of the Havana Police Department is woken by an insistent phone call. He has a terrible hangover after New Year’s Eve celebration. His boss is calling about an urgent case. Rafael Morin, a high rank official, chief of the Import and Export Company in the Ministry of Industry has disappeared. It turns out that Morin is an old school-days acquaintance of Conde, a brilliant student who married Tamara, the girl Conde was after. During the course of this investigation Conde has to face up with the girl of his dreams and the dreams of his youth.

As it is often the case with Padura’s books, the plot is of minor importance. It is just an excuse to provide a portrait of Havana and its people under a totalitarian regime that does not allow the most basic forms of freedom. Padura uses the elements of a police procedural to criticize the political and social structures of the society in which the action takes place. I have enjoyed very much this book, Padura is a very talented writer and I look forward to read the rest of his Mario Conde series.

Leonardo Padura was born in Havana in 1955. He obtained a degree in Spanish Language and Literature from the University of Havana, and has worked as a scriptwriter, journalist, and critic. He is the author of essays, collections of short stories, but is best known for his series of crime novels starring Detective Mario Conde. These have been translated into many languages, and have won prestigious literary awards such as the Café Gijón Prize in 1995, the Hammett Prize for best crime novel in 1997, 1998, and 2005, the Premio de las Islas, in 2000, in France, the Brigada 21 Prize to the best novel of the year, as well as several editions of the Cuban Critics Prize and the National Prize for Novel in 1993. The Mario Conde series, acclaimed by readers and critics alike, is thus far made up of six novels: Pasado perfecto (Havana Blue), Vientos de cuaresma (Havana Gold), Máscaras (Havana Red), Paisaje de otoño (Havana Black), Adiós, Hemingway (Adiós, Hemingway) and La neblina del ayer (Havana Fever).

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6 thoughts on “Havana Blue (Original title: Pasado Perfecto) – Leonardo Padura”

  1. >Thanks for this review. The Havana novels have been on my list of books to read for a while, now, and your review makes me keener than ever to get started!

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