After an accident at the distillery leaves her with a mangled hand, and her marriage to a chronic alcoholic ends with his predictable death, Elena enters a national poetry competition and wins. She departs her tiny hometown for Havana, finds welcome company in the literati of the capital, and falls in love with an outspoken poet, Daniel Arcilla, who runs into trouble with the authorities. The couple struggles to reconcile their aesthetic and political beliefs to the brutal reality around them.
... walks a fine line between poetry and political satire ... reads like a combination of legendary Cuban comedian Guillermo Álvarez Guedes' irreverent, foul-mouthed humor and the beautiful strangeness of Alejandro Jodorowsky's prose ... wide-ranging in terms of atmospheres, but three elements make it cohesive: exile, humor, and poetry. They permeate the narrative regardless of Medina's tone. The most interesting of them, however, is poetry ... The novel's ending is bland, and there are a few instances where the mixture of humor and critique slightly diminishes the impact of the criticism. Despite these shortcomings, Medina is a talented storyteller and The Cuban Comedy is a smart, poignant look at a country where politics play a huge part in everyday life and poetry may lead to salvation — or doom.
Rather than get into particulars of how everyday life changed in Cuba by the early '60s, Medina memorably conjures a stark change in atmosphere ... A bleak fable that honors the poetic spirit, recognizing lyricism and metaphor as dangerous tools of defiance.