The fear of not being able to leave, of remaining locked on the island, is shared by many of my compatriots. Those who have never traveled fear they will grow old without ever knowing what’s on the other side of the sea. Cubans living abroad are not exempt from this fear. Many of them, when they visit the Island, have a recurring nightmare that they will not be allowed to board the plane when they leave. It is precisely this feeling overwhelms the main character of the novel “Eskimo Kiss,” by the novelist and journalist Manuel Pereira.
The book, as yet unpublished, describes the experiences of a man who travels to the land he left twelve years ago. His mother’s advanced age compels him return to the “country of mirages,” as he calls it. His arrival is accompanied by the panic of being trapped and that apprehension is mixed with the constant feeling of being watched. To him, his country is “like a moustrap” during the four days of the “humanitarian entry permit” the authorities have given him.
It is not only that perception of confinement that overwhelms the character of Pereira, but the difference between what he remembered from his homeland and what it really was. The distance, years and emotions tend to put a patina of sweetness and harmony on loved ones and everyday life that is often shattered when they are reunited. Nor does a nation fading away, in a moral freefall, do much to help allay the impression of suffocation that runs through the pages of this book. “Will he be able to escape?” we ask ourselves from the moment we start reading. To get to the answer we have to immerse ourselves in the reality—as well known as it is absurd—in which we ourselves are trapped.