“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.