February 21, 2005

Exiled Cuban Writer Cabrera Infante Dies in London


HAVANA (Reuters) - Cuban writer Guillermo Cabrera Infante, who wrote about Cuba's steamy cabaret society and became a staunch critic of Cuban communism, died on Monday in London where he lived in exile for 40 years, his wife said.

Actress Miriam Gomez said her husband, aged 75, died of a staphylococci infection caught in a hospital where he had been taken a week ago after breaking a hip in a fall.

``He died far from his country, but free of a master,'' she told Reuters in a telephone interview from her London home. ``He carried Cuba inside him. His Cuba does not exist anymore.''

As a young intellectual and cinema critic, Cabrera Infante supported Cuban leader Fidel Castro's revolution, which overthrew the corrupt right-wing dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista in 1959.

But when the new government steered toward communism and censorship crept in, the writer became disillusioned and left Cuba. He became Cuba's cultural attache in Brussels and went into exile in Britain after resigning his post in 1965.

In "Three Trapped Tigers,'' his masterpiece published in 1967, Cabrera Infante used playful language full of puns to recreate the culture, music and nightlife of prerevolutionary Havana, when the cabarets and casinos were run by gangsters.

The novel has been called a sexier and funnier Cuban ``Ulysses'' and was adapted by the author for the screenplay of the 2004 film ``The Lost City,'' directed by Cuban-born actor Andy Garcia. Dustin Hoffman played the mobster Meyer Lansky with Bill Murray as the writer.

"'Three Trapped Tigers' was a revolution in Spanish literature. It created an original and unique language that was Caribbean and Cuban,'' said exiled journalist Carlos Franqui, who edited the newspaper Revolucion, for which Cabrera Infante wrote in the early days of Castro's government.

Cabrera Infante's other works include ``View of dawn in the tropics'' (1974), ``Havana for a dead prince'' (1979) and ``Mea Cuba'' (1993), a series of essays condemning Castro's rule.

The writer, who as born in 1929 in the village of Gibara in Eastern Cuba, won the Cervantes Prize, the top Spanish language literary award, in 1997.

His wife said he had undergone coronary by-pass surgery in August. A week ago, he slipped and fell in the bathroom of his West London home, and broke his hip.

Gomez said he caught the staphylococci at the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, and he was moved to Charing Cross Hospital, where he died on Monday night.

"He died of the infection, not the broken hip,'' she said.