José Manuel Prieto is a novelist and translator. His latest novel is Rex. (May 2011)

IN THE REVIEW

Havana: The State Retreats

A woman taking down laundry in the building that houses the Paladar La Guarida in Central Havana shortly after Raúl Castro came to power, April 2008; photograph by Mark Gong
On my first visit to Cuba in ten years, I had the chance to observe the first signs of the dismantling of this gigantic state, visibly in retreat. I saw the detritus left behind: the disaster of a dysfunctional economy and a deep financial crisis aggravated by a dual currency system. All amid the growing discontent of the population and surging dissidence.

Reading Mandelstam on Stalin

Osip Mandelstam; photograph by Moses Nappelbaum, known for his portraits of St. Petersburg’s writers, including Anna Akhmatova and Boris Pasternak, as well as his portraits of Trotsky, Lenin, and Stalin
Described by one critic as the sixteen lines of a death sentence, this is perhaps the twentieth century’s most important political poem, written by one of its greatest poets against the man who may well be said to have been the cruelest of its tyrants.