Leonardo Padura: The Man Who Loved Dogs

The publication in English of The Man Who Loved Dogs by the Cuban author, Leonardo Padura is a major literary and political event. I read this remarkable novel when it came out in Spanish and it made a profound impression on me. I had intended to write a review then, but was prevented from doing it by a combination of circumstances. With the greatest pleasure I will now rectify this omission.

Born in Havana, Cuba, in 1955, Leonardo Padura is a novelist of some stature as well as a journalist and critic. He is the author of several novels, two volumes of short stories, and several nonfiction collections. His novels featuring the detective Mario Conde have been translated into many languages and have won literary prizes around the world.

Padura is best known for his detective stories. But The Man Who Loved Dogs is of an entirely different order. In my opinion it can rightly be regarded as a modern classic, a combination of minute historical research with the creativity of a novelist of the highest order.

The intriguing title is the product of a literary device through which the author attempts to link the separate destinies of the three main characters: the Cuban writer Iván, the great Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky and his assassin, Ramon Mercader. It is the last-named who is the man who loved dogs. Whether or not this close attachment to the canine species ever existed is naturally quite irrelevant to the central theme of the book. In the best tradition of the historical novel, Padura blends historical fact with creative artistic invention.

Crime and punishment

The story revolves around a fictional character, Iván Cárdenas Maturell, who in his youth was a promising Cuban writer until one day he fell foul of the Stalinist censors who declared one of his stories to be counterrevolutionary. His career is blocked by a layer of bureaucrats, careerists and time-servers, and he is forced to eke out a poverty-stricken existence as a proof-reader at a veterinary magazine. At the start of the novel we meet him at his wife’s funeral, a disillusioned and broken man living in a ramshackle hut with a leaking roof whose only solace is in his pet dog.

While contemplating the death of his wife, he begins to look back on his past life and recalls the moment of an extraordinary coincidence. One afternoon in 1977 while strolling on a beach, he meets a mysterious foreigner walking his two Russian borzoi wolfhounds – a breed practically unknown on the island. The common interest in dogs is the starting point of a conversation in which the man who loved dogs introduces himself as Jaime López, an elderly Spaniard who is living in Havana.

The man eventually turns out to be Ramón Mercader, the Catalan Stalinist and GPU agent who, on Stalin’s personal orders, murdered Leon Trotsky, the man who, together with Lenin led the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia. After completing a twenty year sentence in a Mexican prison, Mercader was finally released in 1960, when he first travelled to Havana. A year later, in 1961, he transferred to Moscow, where his bosses in the Kremlin decorated him as a “Hero of the Soviet Union”.

ramon-mercaderRamón Mercader - was decorated with the Hero's Golden StarHowever, Mercader was not destined to enjoy the fruits of his crime. Even the award had to be done in secret, since only a few years earlier Khrushchev had denounced Stalin as a criminal and a mass-murderer. Sworn to silence to the end of his days, Mercader lived a shadowy existence in Moscow, unable to emigrate abroad and under the watchful eyes of the KGB, until he was finally allowed to go to Havana, suffering from terminal cancer, where he died in 1978, in complete obscurity.

These are the known facts. But around these few facts Padura spins a complex yet convincing web that mixes fact with fiction, passing seamlessly from the former to the latter in such a way that the reader soon forgets that he is using his imagination to fill in the missing gaps. At first the owner of the borzoi dogs claims to have been a friend of the man who assassinated Leon Trotsky. Could he himself be the infamous Mercader? All along Iván, and the reader, is kept in doubt.

At no point does the mysterious Jaime López ever admit in so many words that he and Ramón Mercader are one and the same person, but in the process of gradual revelation, an extraordinary story emerges. The doubts are finally resolved when, after the death of the man called Jaime López, a package is delivered to Iván containing Mercader’s life story. Driven by some internal urge, the assassin finds the need to speak from beyond the grave about his past to a complete stranger whose only thing in common is that he loves dogs.

At first glance such a scenario seems most unlikely. But the workings of the human psyche are complex and Padura shows considerable insight into these complexities. It is known that a guilty conscience can drive a criminal to recount his crimes to a police investigator, and that this fact can be used by a skilful interrogator to obtain the desired confession. The fact that Mercader knew he was dying adds weight to this psychological supposition.

Perhaps it was the author’s experience as a crime writer that helped him gain this psychological insight. The great Russian writer Dostoevsky showed the same kind of insight when dealing with the psychology of the murderer Raskolnikov in his most famous novel, Crime and Punishment. Indeed, there are certain parallels between these two works. In the standard works of detective fiction, the identity of the murderer is only revealed at the end. The interest lies precisely in the gradual discovery of the murderer’s identity. But in Dostoevsky’s novel, the identity of the murderer is known from the beginning. The interest here is of a different kind: it lies in the gradual revelation of the psychology of crime and punishment.

Long ago the famous English poet Coleridge spoke of that “willing suspension of disbelief” as a precondition for the enjoyment of poetry, and Padura secures precisely that. It was doubtless the need to atone for his guilt that compels Mercader to describe his vile crime to a complete stranger. He succeeds in convincing the reader that this most unlikely of encounters did in fact take place, that the writer Iván did in fact exist and that the extraordinary events in the novel are fact, not fiction.

A many-layered work

From the point of view of literary technique, Padura shows great skill in linking together the events of Iván's life in Cuba, the early years of Mercader in Spain and France, and Trotsky's exile. Padura very conscientiously traces the life of Trotsky from the October Revolution, through the Civil War, when he led the Red Army to victory against 21 armies of foreign intervention, the struggle of the Left Opposition against the Stalinist bureaucracy, the long years in exile in Turkey, France, Norway and finally Mexico. The life of Trotsky is well documented and Padura’s version follows the facts very closely.

Padura tells the whole story of Trotsky’s battle with Stalin and Stalinism, his exile from the USSR and his eventual assassination. But it is a many-layered work, which knits together a number of related but separate strands. The first is the story of Iván Cárdenas Maturell. Secondly there is the life of Trotsky and that of Mercader, the Spanish Civil War, the sinister workings of Stalin’s GPU, and last but not least, the problem of bureaucracy and the reflections of Stalinism in Cuba itself.

It is also not hard to believe that the fictional character Iván is based on the real experiences that Padura has either had himself or observed in others. He is really the personification of a whole generation of young Cuban intellectuals who gave themselves body and soul to the Revolution, who fought, worked and made sacrifices to ensure its success, but who ended up disappointed and revolted by Stalinism, which twisted the ideals of the Revolution into a bureaucratic caricature.

Here, as in all truly great literature, the particular is firmly linked to the general: the lives of individuals interconnect with the destinies of the Revolution – and counterrevolution. These are not the cardboard characters that are customarily encountered in popular fiction but living, breathing men and women. However, their individual lives are inseparably linked to broad historical processes and cannot be understood outside them.

The problem of Mercader

Bit by bit, step by step, in the best tradition of a detective story, Iván manages to reconstruct the whole story of the murder of Lev Davídovich Trotsky, a reconstruction based on a vast amount of careful historical investigation and very close to the historical facts. The “man who loved dogs” initially appears reluctant to reveal anything about his past, but gradually, piece by piece, the puzzle falls into place. The skilful way in which Padura gradually builds up a picture of Mercader is one of the most impressive elements of the novel.

Through the personalities of Trotsky and his murderer, Ramon Mercader, Padura traces the history of some of the most important events of the 20th century. However, we must remember that we are dealing here not with a work of history but a novel. As we have seen, it is a novel with many different strands and layers. Padura goes to great lengths to reconstruct the life of Ramón Mercader. But here there is a problem.

In an interview in the Argentinean paper Clarin (7 May 2013) Padura said: “It took me five years to write it, with an intense and extensive documentary research. About Trotsky there was abundant information, about Mercader almost nothing.” Nevertheless, combining whatever facts were known, and making use of his “detective” skills and imagination, Padura succeeds brilliantly in putting together a very convincing portrait of the man who murdered Trotsky.

It is common knowledge that an author inevitably develops a certain sympathy for the character he or she depicts. The reason for such empathy is not difficult to understand. In order to portray men and women as real human beings, not merely empty abstractions, it is necessary to gain a deep insight into their hearts and minds, to understand their motivations, their passions, their most cherished beliefs, and to uncover the mainsprings of their actions.

Trotsky often quoted the words of the philosopher Spinoza: “Neither weep nor laugh but understand.” Of course, to understand a person’s actions is not necessarily to condone them. Nevertheless, in approaching the actions of men and women scientifically, with the same objectivity that an anatomist uncovers the different tissues of an organism, it is at least possible to avoid falling into hasty judgments based on petty spite, hatred or malice.

With a clinical detachment, Padura reconstructs the life of Mercader from his disturbed childhood in a bourgeois family in Catalonia. He describes the influence of his unstable mother, Caridad, who swings from anarchism to Stalinism and becomes fanatically devoted to the Party. Ramón joins the Communist Party and fights in the Spanish Civil War, when he is recruited by the GPU, Stalin’s secret police and murder machine, with the active encouragement of his mother.

At one point Caridad strongly hints that the famous anarchist revolutionary Durruti was murdered by the Stalinists, an act she considers completely justified:

“‘Did you believe the story about Buenaventura Durruti being killed by a stray bullet?’
“Ramón looked at his mother and felt that he couldn’t say a word.
“‘Do you think we can win a war with an anarchist commander who’s more prestigious than all of the communist leaders?’
“‘Durruti was fighting for the Republic,’ Ramón tried to reason.
“‘Durruti was an anarchist; he would have been one all his life.’”

Inside the murder machine

Later Ramón witnesses the crimes of the GPU in Spain: the persecution of the anarchists and supporters of the POUM, the kidnapping, torture and murder of the POUM leader Andres Nin. Finally he is sent to Moscow for training as a GPU assassin. The monstrous methods of the GPU are described in horrific detail, the way in which people like Mercader were systematically brutalised and turned into obedient machines, ready to carry out the most vicious and inhuman acts.

While in Moscow he is invited to attend a session of the notorious Purge Trials, “the most grotesque judicial farce of the century,” in which Stalin murdered all the leaders of Lenin’s party, after forcing them to confess to the most grotesque crimes against the Revolution. He also saw that Stalin was physically liquidating foreign communists:

“For example, in February 1937 Stalin told his peon Georgi Dimitrov, the Comintern general secretary, the foreign communists received in Moscow were ‘playing with the enemy’ and immediately tasked Yezhov with solving the problem. One year later, of the 394 members of the executive committee of the International who lived in the USSR, only 170 were still alive, the rest having been executed or sent to death camps. There were Germans, Austrians, Yugoslavs, Italians, Bulgarians, Finns, Balts, British, Frenchmen and Poles among them, while the proportion of sentenced Jews was once again noteworthy. In that witch hunt Stalin eliminated more leaders of the German Communist Party from before 1933 than Hitler himself had.”

Despite everything, Ramón remains blindly loyal to Stalin and his regime, which he identifies with the need to defend the Soviet Union. Like many others, he closed his eyes to all the crimes and barbarities, finding a thousand reasons, excuses and explanations. Overcoming all his human instincts he becomes a hired killer and accepts without question the mission entrusted to him by the Boss in the Kremlin – the liquidation of the “counterrevolutionary” Trotsky.

The assassination

At the heart of the book is a truthful historical account of the assassination of Leon Trotsky. In 1937 Stalin decided that his main opponent would have to be liquidated. The Moscow Trails were intended to establish a political and legal basis for this crime. The house in Coyoacán was surrounded by 20-foot garden walls and watchtowers with slits in them for machine-guns. But all this was no defence against Stalin’s murder machine.

Leon Trotsky’s grandson, my old friend Esteban Volkov still lives in Coyoacán. I met him not long ago in the house in Mexico City where his grandfather was murdered and asked him what he thought of Padura’s novel. “Of course, the events described in his book are very well known to me,” he replied. “I have read the book but rather quickly, and my impression was favourable. But I will have to read it again more in depth.”

The first attack occurred on 24 May 1940, when a group of 20 armed Stalinists, led by the artist David Siqueiros, stormed the house at night; the door having been left open by the young American Bob Sheldon, an agent who had been infiltrated into the guards. They threw grenades and sprayed the bedrooms with machine-gun bullets. By a miracle Trotsky and his wife Natalia survived by huddling under their bed. Their 14 year old grandson Esteban was slightly wounded in the foot by a stray bullet.

The only victim of that attack was Bob Sheldon who disappeared together with the assailants. His body was found later. Trotsky believed that he had been kidnapped, but in fact he had been part of the plan and was probably killed as a scapegoat for the failure. After the attack the guards began to strengthen the perimeter walls. But Trotsky was sceptical. “The next time it will be different”, he predicted. He was soon to be proved right.

The GPU had another team at work in Mexico, completely separate from the one that staged the bungled assault in May. Just as Trotsky had warned, they were working with entirely different methods. Their key man was Ramón Mercader who very skilfully infiltrated Trotsky’s Mexico circle, posing as a non-political businessman called Jacson.

Jacson-Mercader worked slowly and patiently to cultivate friendly relations with the guards and Trotsky’s closest friends. Esteban remembers that he was always performing little favours and offering to drive people around in his flashy car. “He even drove the Rosmers to Veracruz one time”. By such means he gradually wormed his way into the confidence of those surrounding Trotsky, while carefully refraining from seeking to approach his intended victim personally.

The book presents us with a very convincing reconstruction of Mercader’s relations with Sylvia Ageloff, the woman he seduced and who introduced him to the Trotsky household. Padura seems to penetrate the mind of the assassin and lay bare his psychological state in the days and weeks leading up to the murder, his intense inner agitation and violent mood swings. But gradually, imperceptibly, like a tiger silently stalking his prey, he moved ever closer to his target.

Pretending to develop an interest in Trotsky’s ideas, he unexpectedly produced an article on the War, which he asked Trotsky to read and correct. Already by this time Trotsky’s suspicions of this man were aroused. Yet astonishingly those who were supposed to be defending him displayed a complete lack of awareness of the danger. So careless were they of their duty that when Jacson appeared wearing a raincoat on a hot Mexican summer day, they did not even bother to “frisk” him. Had they taken this elementary precaution they would have discovered a knife, a pistol and an ice-axe and the plot would have been foiled.

So it was that on 20 August, Stalin’s agent was left alone in the company of his victim. Placing himself carefully behind Trotsky as he bent over the text of the article, he struck at the head of the revolutionary with all his strength. The blow was intended to have resulted in instant death, but, uttering a scream that raised the alarm, he fought, in a last supreme effort of the will, to fend off his assailant before collapsing.

His bodyguards hurried in – too late. The leader of the October Revolution and founder of the Red Army lay mortally wounded, blood streaming from his head. Too late the guards realised their mistake, their stupid carelessness and incredible negligence. Too late they tried to get some relief by battering the assassin. Even at this time the Old Man showed remarkable presence of mind when he called to the guards: “Do not kill him. He must talk!”

Returning from school that afternoon, Esteban witnessed a shocking scene. “I saw a man, his face covered in blood, crying like a baby, incoherent and beside himself. I did not recognise Jacson at first. He was more like an animal than a human being,” he told me. When the Old Man caught sight of his grandson, he ordered the guards to take him outside: “He must not see this,” he said. Trotsky was rushed to hospital, where the Mexican doctors struggled to save his life. He died the following day.

The revenge of history

Over twenty years later, Mercader meets with one of his fellow GPU agents, Leonid Eitingon, who, under the code name Kotov, was his immediate superior in the plot to assassinate Trotsky. But the wheel of history has now turned full circle. The clique in the Kremlin has been compelled, for its own self-preservation, to ditch Stalin and disassociate itself from his crimes.

The men who did the dirty work for Stalin now find themselves despised outcasts. The chief architect of Trotsky’s murder, Pavel Sudoplatov, spends fifteen years in a labour camp (though not for killing Trotsky). Eitingon was also sent to a camp. Old and embittered, he consoles himself by soaking himself in vodka as he commiserates with Mercader in a bar in Moscow.

That was in 1968, the year in which Brezhnev sent Russian tanks to crush the dissident Czech Party under Dubcek. Padura’s graphic description of Moscow at that time corresponds very closely with my own memories. Having dedicated their lives to a regime that betrayed every principle of socialism – a betrayal infinitely worse and more damaging than that perpetrated by the leaders of the Social Democracy in the summer of 1914, they now have only bitter memories.

Eitingon informs Mercader that they never expected him to survive the murder of Trotsky:

“You have to believe what I tell you: we were more cynical than you can imagine. You were not the only one who was going to die for an ideal that didn’t exist. Stalin perverted everything and forced people to fight for him’ for his needs, his hate, his megalomania. Forget that we were fighting for socialism. What socialism? What equality? They tell me that Brezhnev has a collection of antique cars.”

These lines suggest that the degeneration of the Russian Revolution was all the work of one evil man. Such an explanation explains nothing, of course. Padura has read Trotsky’s The Revolution Betrayed and is well aware that Stalin was only the representative of a privileged caste of officials, the bureaucracy that rose to power as the result of the isolation of the Revolution under conditions of extreme backwardness.

The death of Stalin did not signify the end of the rule of the bureaucracy, only a shift from one layer of the bureaucracy to another. Eitingon (or rather Padura) draws this conclusion: “I was convinced that without Stalin and his hate, the party would be just and the struggle would again regain its meaning... But forget it. I was wrong again. Everything was rotten. How long had it been rotten?” And Mercader asks him: “So what does a man like you do when he no longer believes in anything?”

This question goes right to the heart of the matter, and has a direct bearing on what is undoubtedly the weakest part of the book. In the last few pages entitled Requiem, the author muses briefly on what lessons can be drawn from all this. Being a novel and not a work of scientific political analysis, it would be asking too much to demand a Marxist perspective. Nor is it clear who is speaking here: Padura or one of his characters.

However, in the end the implication is that it was all utopian, an impossible dream, which Trotsky “with his obstinate fanaticism” pursued to the end. Such an ambiguous, and one might say, cowardly conclusion is unworthy of a great book. If socialism is utopia, the outlook for humanity would be grim indeed! One can only respond with the same question: “So what does a man do when he no longer believes in anything?”

The Russian Revolution of 1917 was not a utopia but the greatest single event in human history, and together with Lenin, Trotsky was the most important leader of the October Revolution. He alone maintained the spotless banner of proletarian democracy and socialist internationalism after the death of Lenin. From faraway exile in Mexico he carried on an implacable struggle against the bureaucratic and totalitarian Stalinist regime.  Finally, inevitably, he fell victim to one of Stalin’s assassins.

On 20 August 1940 Stalin imagines he had silenced Trotsky’s voice forever. It is so easy to destroy a man or woman. We are frail creatures and our lives can be ended by a bullet, a knife or an ice-pick as easily as snuffing out a candle. But one cannot extinguish an idea whose time has come. Today, 74 years after that fateful day, the ideas of Marxism are as relevant as ever, and the voice of Leon Trotsky rings out all over the world, while the memory of Stalin and his henchmen is spattered with blood and infamy.

The Revolution Betrayed

Slowly a new generation is taking shape that is struggling to find the truth. Nowhere is that truer than in Cuba, where so many great sacrifices were made in the cause of socialist revolution, and where so much harm was done by the influence of Stalinism. Padura’s book will without doubt help many people to understand the past and therefore prepare them to face the future. It is like a voyage of discovery where a bold intellect has managed to lift the thick veil that for so long obscured the views of so many people, and began to understand the truth.

In the Clarin interview Padura was asked why he chose to tell this story. He replied that while that there may be an element of nostalgia, he was also attempting to discover the real causes of the degeneration of the Russian Revolution. In studying the assassination of Trotsky, he began to understand the nature of Stalinism and its counterrevolutionary role: “Suddenly I understood some of the reasons why the utopia became perverted. The role of Stalinism, the inheritance of his figure, was a terrible thing,” he says.

The novel deals in outline with the struggle that ended in the rise to power of Stalin in Russia. But more than that, the author uses these events as a means of analysing the relationship between Cuba and Stalinism. The clear implication is that in Cuba there were many little Stalins – time-serving bureaucrats, selfish careerists and corrupt officials. By analysing in detail the personal experience of a handful of characters, Padura gradually unfolds before the reader a chain of epoch-making events: the Russian Revolution and the Civil War, during which Trotsky stood at the head of the Red Army that he created; the Spanish Civil War; and, last but not least, the fate of the Cuban Revolution itself.

In the 1970s, that black period in which Stalinism reigned and the burning revolutionary convictions of a generation of young Cubans were manipulated by the Stalinist bureaucracy for its own ends. This is graphically expressed in the book itself and the destiny of its central character. The fall of the Soviet Union plunged Cuba into a deep crisis, not just in the economic plane but in a political and psychological sense.

During the harsh and hungry years of what Cubans call “the Special Period”, “the years of the endless blackouts and the breakfasts composed of orange-leaf teas”, many people began to look more critically at life on the island. That clearly was the case of Leonardo Padura. Although Iván is a fictional character, through him Padura is clearly expressing his own personal experience and that of many other Cubans. This comes across strongly in the book:

“But it was clear that we had fallen to the bottom of an atrophied social scale where intelligence, decency, knowledge and capacity for work gave way before craftiness, proximity to the dollar, political placement, being the son, nephew or cousin of Someone, the art of making do, inventing, increasing, escaping, pretending, stealing everything that could be stolen. And cynicism, bastard cynicism.”

Forced to give up his career as a promising writer by the Stalinist censors, Iván has been obliged to earn a living as an editor of a veterinary magazine. He is thus a victim of a bureaucratic totalitarian system that is the negation of art and literature. In the end Iván commits suicide, shortly after finishing a novel entitled The Man Who Loved Dogs.

In an interview that Padura gave to our Danish comrades he says: “Ivan is not a man; Ivan is the synthesis of a generation, in which I put many of the illusions, disillusions, defeats and fears of my generation. It is a man that represents all the problems we have lived through in Cuba in my generation, that generation that grew up in the revolution, studied in the revolution, went to war in the revolution and that in the ‘90s found they had nothing in their hands.”

The fact that that Iván finally commits suicide seems to imply that an entire generation has lost all hope. Yet this pessimistic conclusion is contradicted by the content of the whole novel, and also by the words of Padura himself in the aforementioned interview:

“I believe the new utopia needs to rediscover the basis of the system with the real components that this kind of society needs: real democracy, real power to the people that work, not for the bureaucracy as was the case in the Soviet Union and in many socialist countries. For this reason I think that this book certainly is relevant to the moment we are living through.”

Although the worst features of Stalinist repression which existed in the 1970s have been eliminated and Cuba no longer suffers from the suffocating rule of the censorship, there are still some people in Cuba who hanker after a return to the past: to the, to a time when bureaucrats could dictate to the conscience of writers and tell them what to think, say and write. In fact, The Man Who Loved Dogs initially had to be published in Mexico and Spain, and was finally published in Cuba in a small edition of a few thousand because of the opposition of those who want to put the clock back.

In the Danish interview Padura explains how the book won a prize despite being subjected to a conspiracy of silence:

“Curiously on the day of the launch at the book fair no news appeared in the media about the presentation. Also afterwards the papers kept quiet even though the launch of the book was the most exciting meeting in the book fair, and the room was completely full with people outside trying to get in. A week ago the book won the national critics prize in Cuba, this highlights Cuba's contradictions: twenty years ago maybe I wouldn’t even have been able to think about writing this book; ten years ago I could write it but it wouldn’t have been published in Cuba; now it can be published and even though it is silenced in the media it can win prizes.”

The publication of Padura’s novel strikes a blow against Stalinism. It is a victory not just for artistic freedom but for the right of workers and artists to express themselves freely, which is the first condition for genuine socialism. However, today the Cuban Revolution faces a far more dangerous enemy than that posed by nostalgic Stalinists. The existence of the Revolution itself is being threatened by those who wish to push Cuba down the same capitalist road that has already been travelled by Russia and China. The pressures on the island are excruciating and are growing all the time.

But there are also internal dangers that are even greater than the external threats. The problems that arise from bureaucracy, inequality and corruption can undermine the very idea of socialism in the minds of the youth, breeding corrosive moods of scepticism and cynicism. In order to regenerate the Revolution, to revive the people’s faith in socialism, the first necessity is to re-examine the past, to rediscover the genuine ideas and programme of Lenin and the October Revolution. That cannot be done as long as the role and ideas of Trotsky are ignored.

In his book Padura has Mercader reading The Revolution Betrayed in prison. This, no doubt, is another example of the author’s creative imagination. But there can equally be no doubt that he has himself read Trotsky’s writings and is encouraging Cubans to do likewise. The Man Who Loved Dogs has played a most important role in introducing many people in Cuba to the ideas of Trotsky. My experience in recent years has proved to me that there is a growing interest in these ideas on the island. This was shown when we launched the Spanish language edition of The Revolution Betrayed in the Havana Book Fair.

The publication of this work has raised the profile and prestige of Padura as a writer of stature, not just in Cuba but internationally. It is well deserved. It is both a brilliantly executed novel and a most impressive work of historical investigation. It should be obligatory reading for all those who are interested in socialism and historical truth. I should add that the English translation is outstanding.

London 15th January 2014

The Man Who Loved Dogs by Leonardo Padura, translated from the Spanish by Anna Kushner. Published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux in the USA and by Bitter Lemon Press in Britain

The book can be ordered through WellRed Books

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