...translated into English with great precision by Frank Wynne ... Although Álvarez’s characters deal with their poverty without wallowing in sorrow, he doesn’t attempt to romanticize them by suggesting that their hardships dignify them ... Álvarez’s prose is terse, which is uncharacteristic of Cuban fiction, and often bleak. He casts a rather cold eye on the parents’ decline and the children’s moral failing...And in a blistering dissection of the revolution’s practice of awarding coveted commodities on the basis of exemplary conduct, the daughter recounts how the prospect of owning a television causes neighbors to attack one another and invent histories of hardship in order to seem more deserving ... [offers] extraordinarily pointed and poignant commentary on one of the twentieth century’s most calamitous social experiments, and on the inheritors of its ruins.
If Carlos Manuel Alvarez’s debut novel The Fallen is any indicator, he is a Cuban writer to watch. His writing is intelligent, powerful, and insightful, and his short novel will prove to be enlightening for those who have visited Cuba, or wish to ... By allowing readers to listen, almost voyeuristically, to the characters tell their stories in fugue-like progression, Alvarez charts the disintegration of a family that symbolizes the breakdown of a country and a culture torn between the older generation’s idealism and the pragmatism and hopes of their progeny. The result is often startling and incisive ... a truly gifted writer.
In chapters which alternate between the perspectives of the four family members, Álvarez slowly and cleverly builds up a picture of a family unit on the brink of collapse ... Although there are moments of delicious dark humour... The Fallen is, in the end, tragic, and surprisingly so, since for much its length the full facts of Armando’s situation are far from clear. The last few chapters, however, show a man struggling desperately to come to terms with the fact that the country he feels he has worked so hard to build is now thought of as an abject failure by his own children.