Truth in Memory

In 2003, Carlos Eire, the T. Lawrason Riggs Professor of History and Religious Studies at Yale University, published a memoir of his Cuban boyhood, Waiting for Snow in Havana.  In a review of this book that appeared in The American Conservative, I suggested comparison with The Last Grove, the Spanish poet Rafael Alberti’s autobiography, or Report to Greco by Nikos Kazantzakis, but concluded that Eire actually surpassed them both, because “he has seen the hand of God somehow hidden beneath the kaleidoscopic wonder” of life.  The book deservedly won the National Book Award in the nonfiction category.

Waiting for Snow in Havana ends with Eire, at the age of 11, flying out of Havana as one of 14,000 children airlifted to the United States in the extraordinary Operation Pedro Pan (“Peter Pan”), and thus escaping to freedom.  Upon putting down that riveting, magical book, one could not help but wonder, what next?  Will there be a sequel?  And if there is, will it be up to the first book?

Now there is a sequel, and yes, it is fully the equal of the first book and a masterpiece of American writing.  There can be no question that with these two volumes Eire, a superb intellectual historian who has done particularly fine work on such figures as John Calvin and Teresa of Ávila, as well as rediscovered luminaries like Juan Eusebio Nieremberg, S.J. (1595-1658),...

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