Telex from Cuba
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Telex from Cuba

3.38 of 5 stars 3.38  ·  rating details  ·  2,063 ratings  ·  414 reviews
Rachel Kushner has written an astonishingly wise, ambitious, and riveting novel set in the American community in Cuba during the years leading up to Castro's revolution—a place that was a paradise for a time and for a few. The first novel to tell the story of the Americans who were driven out in 1958, this is a masterful debut.
Young Everly Lederer and K.C. Stite...more
Paperback, 336 pages
Published June 2nd 2009 by Scribner (first published July 1st 2008)
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17th out of 38 books — 11 voters


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Community Reviews

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Sarah
This was well written book. It was a page turner for the first half, but then came to a screeching halt by the second half. I felt it was boring and anti-climactic.

However, it was neat to read about this time period, and I have never read ANYTHING about the Cuban revolution. Although it is none of my business, I wonder if the insinuations about Raul and Fidel's sexuality are true.
Colleen
This book was mesmerizing- beautifully written and truly evocative of the time and place of the story. Kushner paints an indelible picture of life in the United Fruit company's outpost in Cuba, her words creating a vivid portrait of a way of life in collapse. The characters are wonderfully drawn and Cuba itself acts as a character in the novel.

Knowing that Kushner's mother lived through this tumultuous time in Cuba lends even greater reality to the narrative. I picked this book up and could bar...more
Desta
This was a book club pick from the finalists for the National Book Award. I really can't imagine why. While the descriptions of a pre-Castro Cuba were good and the story of the American families interesting, the whole mess with the dancer and her ties to the underworld were a major distraction. I still would like to know what point she was making in having the dancer's name be Rachel K. An author doesn't give her character her own name without some sort of reason and I could never find out what...more
Cheryl A
Told mainly through the reminisces of K.C. Stites, son of the manager of United Fruit Company and Everly Lederer, daughter of the new manager of the US government owned nickel mining operation, this is a very lyrically written novel of privilege, proverty and politics in Cuba in the late 1950's. The author gives an excellent overview of the activities of the Batista and Prio governments of Cuba and the rise of the rebels in Cuba, Haiti and the Dominican Republic - not as a history lesson, but to...more
Jeruen
Rarely do I hate a book. I do admit that there are books that simply do not capture my interest, such as the previous book I have read. But this one is a little different.

I checked this book out of the library a few months ago. It has been sitting on my drawer for quite a while now, and so I finally picked it up and started on it. It started quite ok, but it stayed flat. In short, it was quite painful to finish, although I didn't skip the chapters, and faithfully read until the end. When I finis...more
Carl Brush
In Elmore Leonard's Cuba Libre, we learned a bit about the American takeover of Cuba under the pretext of saving its citizens from Spanish depredations (Sounds a little to me like the Russians saving the Ukrainians, but I guess that's another matter.) In Rachel Kushner's Telex From Cuba, we get a good look at the results of fifty-plus years of domination by United Fruit Company and other big American businesses.

The companies have built ersatz American suburbs in the environs of the cane fields...more
El
I recently read Rachel Kushner's The Flamethrowers and fell in love. I have to admit that if I just saw her literary debut, Telex from Cuba on the shelf without reading The Flamethrowers, I probably wouldn't have been interested in reading it. There's no good reason for that other than too many books and too little time, but I am glad that I loved The Flamethrowers so much that I gave this a try.

It's just not as good.

Which is strange to say because I'd say these books are almost identical in so...more
Ruth
Nov 13, 2008 Ruth rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Kate, of course! & my siblings
Shelves: recently-read
The Cuban revolution of the late 1950s as experienced by U.S. families living on the far eastern end of the island & managing U.S. corporate enterprises there--United Fruit's sugarcane operation & a nickel mine owned by the U.S. government. That is, the same people who are primly shocked at any other government's "socialistic" ownership of resources--this inconsistency isn't really taken up here, but many others are.

I wasn't really interested in the secondary Rachel/La Maziere relationsh...more
Vanessa Wu
I was going to start this review by saying that this novel gives the lie to anyone who says you can't teach people to write.

Of course you can teach people to write. You can teach people to drive, which is a lot harder than writing. You can teach them to build bridges across impossible spaces, put up those massive, bristling skyscrapers in New York and Shanghai, get oil from the desert, make rockets and missiles and sell them to countries worse off than you so they can almost but not quite destr...more
Bill
This was a fascinating fictional account of the events leading up to the overthrow of the Batista government by Fidel and Raul Castro, and the lives of working Americans in Cuba at that time. It provides a broad, even-handed perspective on the economic, cultural and political dimensions of the Cuban Revolution - plus a visceral sense of Cuban culture, geography and climate.
Sonya
It took me a very long time to get through this book. Normally, if I am struggling this much, I will move on; I'm not one to force myself through books, life is too short and there's too much to read. But I kept on with this, because I had a sense that Kushner had a particular vision for this -- something very different from what I, as a writer, would try to do; and I wanted to find out what it was, and how she was going to achieve it.

Perhaps the most difficult thing about the novel's structure...more
Caitlin Constantine
Have you ever read a book that you knew was technically very good but you still didn't like it very much? That was the experience I had while reading this book. Kushner's prose is stunning, and the backdrop of Cuba and the sugar plantations just before the revolution is one I've never read about before. Yet the book just left me cold.

I've thought hard about this and the only thing I can come up with is that the story seemed like it was written in service of telling a history lesson, rather than...more
Elizabeth (Alaska)
An interesting read. I was just young enough at the time of the Revolution to not really have been aware of its having happened until the Bay of Pigs, and I was more than happy to have the opportunity to read more, without its having to be an exacting history. This is a work of fiction, but fact and fiction is seamlessly interwoven.

Fidel and Raul Castro are figures at the margins. The white management is supposedly of the United Fruit Company which did exist, now Chiquita, and I feel certain th...more
Michelle
Telex From Cuba
Rachel Kushner
Historical Fiction
322 pages
copyright: 2008
isbn: 1-4165-6103-x

RACHEL KUSHNER HAS WRITTEN AN ASTONISHINGLY wise, ambitious, and riveting novel set in the American community in Cuba during the years leading up to Castro's revolution—a place that was a paradise for a time and for a few. The first Novel to tell the story of the Americans who were driven out in 1958, this is a masterful debut.

Young Everly Lederer and K.C. Stites come of age in Oriente Province, where the A...more
Dorothyanne Brown
Picked up this book from the library to get some atmosphere for a book I am writing that involves Cuba.
Perhaps it's just me, but I couldn't finish it. I loved the description of the life in Cuba during the Batista years, the feeling of excitement around the coming of Castro (and unease), but the book suffers from a lack of involvement with the characters. Halfway through I didn't feel any interest in any of the characters and was instead confused about who was where and who was who. I'd be hard...more
Lori
It's never a good sign when you leave a book part-way through to read others, and return only to the first book to "get it out of the way," but that's exactly what happened for me with TELEX FROM CUBA. Technically, the writing is pleasurable, but the story is tedious and the structure is infuriatingly disjointed.
Jeanne
I'm really glad I read this book even though it was a bit odd. For one thing, there is no main character, but the chapters are told from the point of view of different characters. That's not so unusual, but the author has us jump around from first to third person, from year-to-year, and from present day to future reminiscing. It's an interesting way to tell the story of Castro's revolution and how it impacted the Americans living there at the time. I wasn't too familiar with the details of this...more
Alex
I'm really giving it a 2.5 star review, but since you can't do halves and this book really got on my nerves at times, I rounded down.

Okay, so, the breakdown, starting with the pros:
-Interesting concept full of fascinating depictions of Cuba in the 1950s and all the political and social turmoil that was going on there.
-The American kid protagonists are fairly well done and offer a certain "innocence lost" perspective on everything that was going on at that time, which contrasts nicely with the...more
Jeweleye
This novel takes place during the seven years that Batista was in power in Cuba, and United Fruit, with the backing of the U.S. government, made the rules. But Fidel and Raul Castro were in the hills fomenting the revolution that occurred in early 1959. The story is told through the men that worked for United Fruit and the families that accompanied them to Cuba; a dancer at a club; and an arms dealer.

I was growing up in Miami in 1959 and I was in second grade when the schools starting piping in...more
Rick Caborn
Mar 13, 2014 Rick Caborn rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: nobody.
Shelves: library
The writing is readable and I was even drawn into the story fairly often. However, there were regular occurrences of lines that made me think of potential candidates for the Bulwer-Lytton prize.

I can't call the book bad, overall. I didn't struggle thorugh it, but I found it largely pointless. I didn't learn anything new, I didn't find myself caring about any of the characters, all I felt was a curiosity about how the story could develop, like I was watching some horrific scene and wasn't able to...more
Emma
2.5 stars really. Like a lot of other people, it seems, I found the first half super interesting as an historical fiction but the second half really lost me. The scenes were quite evocative (especially the social gatherings of Unite Fruit Co execs and their families) and a couple of characters were well developed. It was also interesting how it featured very morally-ambiguous characters, it kind of felt overall pessimistic.
Elaine
Impressive. Kushner manages to create a sense of what it was like in Cuba in the 1950s, right up until the revolution. She focuses on the exclusive American communities that were part of United Fruit, where the sugar was processed. Not only is it highly imaginative, but it is lively. She writes with exuberance yet manages to convey a real sense of what it was like. Her political sensibilities are astute, yet in the end, she doesn't really push for one side, so there is a kind of realistic balanc...more
Amanda
Telex from Cuba's concentration on and criticism of race, class, and gender in the 1950's raise the novel to new heights, helping it to avoid a strictly "historical fiction" designation. What makes this novel so unique for its genre is the way in which Kushnell relies upon marginalized American characters - mainly children and housewives - to narrate the political turmoil and class exploitation taking place in pre-Castro Cuba. Rather than draw upon Cubans or even the American executives sent to...more
Mandy
It’s quite hard to review this book as part of it is very good and part of it is pretty bad. Fortunately the good outweighs the bad overall, and on the whole I enjoyed it very much. Cuba was on the front line of the Cold War but little has been written about what it was like to actually live there in the run-up to Castro’s revolution. Kushner’s novel account of end-of-empire ex-pat life is extremely atmospheric and gives an evocative picture of the day-to-day life of the Americans who worked for...more
Nancy
This was not for me. At 100 pages I was still looking for a plot, and I didn't care about any of the characters (and there were a lot of them). The back half picked up a little, but if I hadn't been reading it for a book club, I wouldn't have made it that far. As a book club book, I do have several questions, and I suspect a thoughtful analysis might make me appreciate it more. But in terms of reading enjoyment, it didn't happen for me.
Kathleen Moniz
I enjoyed this book immensely. It depicted life in Cuba during the '1950s, a time of major change in Cuban government and society, from Prio to Batista to Castro. It showed the cloistered society in which the American families of the United Fruit Company employees lived, as well as the world of the American families of the large nickel mine in eastern Cuba The large Fruit Company compound, which grew sugar cane exclusively, was located near the nickel mine and there was some fraternization among...more
Rebecca
I am actually confused as to how this book has such good ratings?? I hope that the history was at least kind of historical, so that it was not a complete waste of my time--maybe I actually learned something in the 3 weeks it took me to get through this book. This book was a "LOB", and should have stayed just that. For those of you who are not in the airline business "Left on Board".
Gino
Interesting but mostly pointless retelling of "man's" ability to rationalize exploitation of others. This is also damaged by totally unnecessary use of non-linear narrative. Maybe it was because the book never grabbed me, but the non-linear narrative blurred the characters and places for me. Yet, as usual, it added nothing.

Lisa
I liked the idea of this book more than the actual book itself. I thought there were too many characters to try to keep up with and they weren't all that interesting. It took me forever to read this because it wasn't very interesting. I love all things involving Cuba, but this just didn't end up being one of them.....
Joanne
Ms. Kushner takes us on a ride through the American enclave in Cuba just as the Castro brothers are fostering the revolution. If you have been to Cuba you will feel the heat while re experiencing the beauty. If you haven't been to Cuba this gifted writer will take you there with her descriptive prose.
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Rachel Kushner’s second novel, THE FLAMETHROWERS was a finalist for the 2013 National Book Award and a New York Times bestseller and Notable Book. Her debut novel, TELEX FROM CUBA, was a finalist for the 2008 National Book Award and the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, winner of the California Book Award, and a New York Times bestseller and Notable Book. Kushner is the only writer ever to be nominated...more
More about Rachel Kushner...
The Flamethrowers The Contenders: Excerpts from the 2013 National Book Award Fiction Finalists Soft Targets: V.2.1 The Great Exception Laura Owens

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“I was a kid. I didn't know about love, that you see someone and whether or not they say much, they make the world suddenly different, a mysterious and more alive place that you can access only through them. And the new, better world falls lifeless and flat when they go away.” 0 likes
“La Mazière had met with El Extraño at a chicken-dinner-and-cockfight joint near the Havana airport, a place that proved even more vulgar than the concept had sounded.” 0 likes
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