Today, I begin a recording of a novel I wrote more than 20 years ago. At my current age of 81, I just want to get the book out in the public in some form while I still can. The novel is called The Pope, His Chamberlain, The Jinetera & Fidel.
It’s a fictional story about Pope John Paul II’s actual 1997 trip to Cuba. I repeat: it’s a fictional story. So, don’t go accusing the sainted pope of the moral failing I place at the story’s center.
On the other hand, the tale was inspired by my own actual first journey to Cuba in the summer of 1996. It reflects what I learned there during a two-week stay under the auspices of the Greater Cincinnati Council of World Affairs – again, the first of many sojourns for me in the adopted home of Che Guevara and Assata Shakur. I’ve visited Cuba more than a dozen times since.
I originally wrote the book as a virtual vehicle for taking my friends and students to Cuba — to expose them to what I experienced during the 1990s “special period” there — and to clear up common misperceptions about life on the island. It was during the ’90s that U.S. sanctions coupled with the fall of the Soviet Union (and Cuba’s loss in the process of 85% of its trading partners) made life nearly unbearable for the Cuban people.
Today, something similar is transpiring for Cubans. The COVID-19 pandemic along with intensified U.S. sanctions have once again brought the tiny nation to its knees. (Hence the protests we’ve all heard so much about.) So, Cuba today is very similar to the Cuba of the last century’s final decade which is the novel’s setting.
The book’s relevance also stems from its indirect exposition of liberation theology, which I consider the most important theological development of the last 1500 years. Pope John Paul II was its foremost opponent. I’d like readers to come away with a better understanding of that theology and social movements it inspired.
Here’s my bottom line: though largely fictional, the descriptions I’ve portrayed here are true in that many of them reflect my own experience. In the introductions to relevant chapters, I’ll emphasize those non-fictional details.
In any case, I hope that you’ll enjoy to some degree what I’ll read here – a chapter more or less each day for the next month or so.
So, get ready. Here it is: the opening of The Pope, His Chamberlain, the Jinetera, and Fidel.
(By the way, as a work still in progress, the book begs for suggestions about improving or changing it. So feel free to offer advice.)