“I admit that it was a strange idea,” Richard Fleming writes in the opening chapter of his engaging debut as a writer. Despite having a wonderful girlfriend, a downtown Manhattan apartment, and a thriving career, he is afraid that his life is spiraling into “nightmarish mediocrity.” After obsessing over the notion for years, he finally decides that crossing the island of Cuba on foot might somehow rescue him from the fate he fears. Walking to Guantánamo (October 2008) is the chronicle of that journey.
And a thoroughly self-deprecating and wry chronicle it is. Rarely has a book about Cuba been so shorn of pretension, ideological blinders, or misplaced romanticism—and hardly ever has it been so genuinely funny. Fleming’s vision of the Pearl of the Antilles is, in the phrase of Madison Smartt Bell, truly “ground-level.” Uninterested in—and certainly unfazed by—either the hysterical attitude of the US government or the smug pose of the Cuban one, Richard Fleming sets out across Cuba literally one step at a time.
In doing so, he reveals a popular culture, particularly in music and spiritual life, of deep complexity. A discerning observer of daily life who rejects the clichés of Cuba’s enemies and friends alike, Richard Fleming ranges over the Cuban countryside with a rare ability to distinguish reality from façade and slogan from fact—and to do it all in often hilarious if singularly modest style.
Fleming has produced a fascinating, wry, vividly detailed and elegantly written account of a trip that no one else is likely to take.
—The Miami Herald - The full review is available here.
Richard Fleming’s name can now be added to that noble lineage of white men who go deep into the dark heart of a foreign country and return bearing light and insight.
—The SunPost - The full review is available here.
To listen to a BBC World interview with author Richard Fleming, click here.
A bird’s-eye view that will both entertain and inform as to a side of Cuba rarely written about.
Meticulously observed and beautifully expressed, Walking to Guantánamo is a ground-level vision of Cuba. With a wittily self-deprecating style, combined with a measure of real humility, Richard Fleming makes of this truly quixotic journey both a delight and a revelation.
—Madison Smartt Bell, author of the trilogy All Soul’s Rising, Master of the Crossroads, and The Stone that the Builder Refused, and Toussaint Louverture: A Biography
Richard Fleming has written a gorgeous and amazing book, worthy of the strange and spectacular country that he traversed and explored. I admire his prose, his insights, his honesty, his courage, his humor. You can read this if you’re fascinated by Cuba, but you can also read Walking to Guantánamo if you simply love a good book.
—Jonathan Ames, author of Wake Up, Sir! and I Love You More Than You Know
Richard Fleming is an expert lover of birds, music, poetry, wilderness, the spiritual life, and human idiosyncrasy. He is also a superb writer, with an excellent ear and a sharp eye. Walking to Guantánamo—a Cuban travelogue of and for our peculiar times—manages to make the exotic seem familiar, and the familiar seem exotic, in a voice that is open, quizzical, unpretentious, and thoroughly beguiling. Here is a marvelous journey you’ve got to read to believe.
—Sean Wilentz, Sidney and Ruth Lapidus Professor of American History, Princeton University, and author of The Rise of American Democracy: Jefferson to Lincoln and The Age of Reagan
Walking to Guantánamo takes the reader on an unblinkered journey deep into the soul of Cuba. It’s a colorful and messy place, chock-a-block in splendor and contradiction, sweet music and demagoguery, aspirations and failed promises. Richard Fleming is a winning guide, funny, and endowed with a keen eye. He avoids clichés and tourist traps and homes in on the numinous wonders of an island nation.
—Rory Nugent, author of The Search for the Pink-Headed Duck: A Journey into the Himalayas and Down the Brahmaputra and Drums Along the Congo
Many travel writers set out to find the “real Cuba,” but none has ever accomplished the mission as successfully, and entertainingly, as Richard Fleming. This devilishly funny, smart, and beautifully written chronicle deserves a place alongside the classic traveler’s tales. Imagine a less misanthropic V. S. Naipaul, or a warm-hearted Paul Theroux—that’s Richard Fleming’s Walking to Guantánamo.
—Daisann McLane, author of Cheap Hotels and columnist, National Geographic Traveler
Few writers can combine literary wit, knowledge, understanding, and a keen sense of the unusual into something that transports their readers deep into a world only known from afar. Richard Fleming manages it, giving us a fresh view of Cuba, a country written about one too many times in prose burdened by the romanticism of revolutions and cultural pasts long gone. His account of traveling the length of the island is free of clichés and preconceived notions, and brings the reader along to experience Cuban reality.
—Andrian Kreye, arts and ideas editor of Süddeutsche Zeitung and author of Uprise of the Ghettos and Grand Central
About the Author
Richard Fleming is an inveterate traveler, photographer, amateur musicologist, sometime deejay, and self-described “rabid birdwatcher” long enamored of the music, culture, and wild places of the Greater Antilles. Since his graduation from Princeton University in 1987, his work as a sound recordist in documentary film has taken him to the farthest reaches of the globe. He’s been around the world with Kofi Annan, flown missions over Kandahar with the US army reserve, followed Imelda Marcos on the presidential campaign trail in the Philippines, camped with geologists in Antarctica, and sweltered on a nuclear aircraft carrier plying the waters of the Persian Gulf. When not on the road, he lives in Brooklyn, New York. Walking to Guantánamo is his first book.