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Latest Review: The Halfway House by Guillermo Rosales

Our latest review is of Guillermo Rosales’s The Halfway House, which is coming out from New Directions next month.

Rosales was a Cuban exile who was misdiagnosed as a schizophrenic and ended up committing suicide. Before taking his own life, he destroyed most of his writings, leaving behind only two works: The Halfway House and El Juego de la Viola, which is also forthcoming from New Directions.

Jeff Waxman (who works at 57th St. Books and edits The Front Table) wrote this review, which begins:

The first of Cuban author Guillermo Rosales’s novels to be translated into English, The Halfway House is not a story that we’re accustomed to. This is the anti-success story, one in which hope is choked out by failure and abandonment; this is the greater, sicker part of the immigration narrative. The Halfway House is without spiritual redemption, but somewhere in this hopeless mess lies some kind of beauty.

In his excellent introduction, José Manuel Prieto asserts that this book is Dantean. Indeed, this book is a shot of light through the darkness of human misery and William Figueras is our Virgil, our narrator. This novel tells Figueras’s story, following him from his first day in a boarding home to a day just like it three years later. Figueras comes to the halfway house as a last resort, a place to go when his relatives have disowned him and “nothing more can be done.” Though he begins his time in the halfway house as a victim—his portable television is stolen moments after he arrives—Figueras participates in the suffering of his fellow residents, beating and abusing them, stealing from them, and being complicit in their sexual abuse. The fact that they’re effectively unaware of their own misery and unused to anything else doesn’t matter; Figueras knows what he’s doing and he’s as much a devil as he is a guide, and as much a sinner as he is a lover.

Click here for the full review.



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