telex from cuba

Daddy hit the pug with a hammer. The poor animal squealed something horrible. I was just a little kid and I hadn’t seen anything so rough before. I started crying and begging him to stop. He had a grim expression, and he hit the pig with the hammer again, and again. There was blood everwhere. The obvious lesson is that pigs are good and not pets, and it’s a father’s duty to make his child understand his. But I think Daddy also wanted me to understand that life is violent and arbitrary and unfair - that it’s not easy, like a child might think, especially a child like me, living in a paradise, coddled by Mother and by Annie, no worries, always having a ball. He beat that pig to death with a hammer in our backyard and he made me watch. 

Rachel Kushner, Telex From Cuba

Telex from Cuba: A Novel by Rachel Kushner

Kushner has an amazing sense of setting. This novel succeeds in making the reader feel like s/he is in 1950s Cuba, on the verge of a revolution.


Kushner takes you to meet multiple Americans living during this unstable time: children, prostitutes, rebels, and spoiled wives. I found the childrens’ stories most compelling, told with innocence and wonder. Seeing the burgeoning revolution through their eyes made it less political, and more personal, connected to their fathers’ jobs, their brothers’ camaraderie with the rebels, their maids’ support of Castro.

A beautifully reconstruction of pre-Castro Cuba, Kusher’s next novel is sure to be just as successful in transporting the reader through time.

I do think that for the writer, at least for me, the reader is ultimately me…It just has to be the case because the logical cycle of generating writing and doing a great deal of reading and thinking about what literature is and what pleasure is and then accessing pleasure as you write – which is such a fundamental component to writing. When the writing is pleasurable is when it’s good ultimately. I’ve just found that cognitively, that’s been the case in my own writing.