A. It would be simple but, quite frankly, that is exactly what I was thinking when I wrote Mambo Kings and had Nestor writing this song, "Beautiful María of My Alma." It could've been "La bella Cuba de mi alma" [Beautiful Cuba of my soul]. I got that notion from when I was a kid growing up in New York as a son of Cubans, and was touched by this sort of ethereal quality of boleros, and this story of longing they all had. And really, when you come down to it, boleros are about longing for youth, longing for early loves, and a passion for a place, time, and people. In fact, I mentioned to my editor that this new book, Beautiful María, is story of Cuba itself.
Q. The novel has quite the historical sweep, opening in Cuba in 1947, and closing in New York in 1994. Did it require a lot of research?
A. My take on Cuba is partly memory-bound, partly melancholic. I read this interesting thing about the word "nostalgia," which is often used about my writing: that it comes from a term ship doctors used to describe a disease when sailors had been out to sea for a few years and were getting homesick. I've always had that, in terms of writing, this thing that is physical,that makes you homesick. For me it is a home that I never really knew and have always seen partly through literature and the great Cuban writers. My writing about Cuba [is] more like an act of creation. Whatever my Cuba is about, it's my own version. I'm not a cultural anthropologist
Also of Interest
- 16 songs everyone over 50 must own
- 5 cheap places to visit
- Match your interests with AARP volunteer opportunities
Remember to go to the AARP home page every day for great deals and for tips on keeping healthy and sharp.