Thine is the Kingdom

The characters of Abilio Estevez’s Thine is the Kingdom live on an island within the island of Cuba, amidst lush, tangled, overgrown but fruitful foliage enduring scorching, suffocating heat or endless grey rainfall. The island’s buildings are the disintegrating remains of the wealth of an earlier era. Decaying pieces of sculpture that imitate classic originals but include a bust of Greta Garbo litter the island.

The inhabitants of this place of ghostly ruins are ghostly themselves, “appearing and disappearing like shadows.” They carry on their ordinary and bizarre actions, drinking lemonade and engaging in incest, without the structure of a plot. The lynchpin is the repeated motif of an overturned candle that in the end incinerates the island. During this narrative of myriad streams of consciousness, of confusion of day and night and past and present, the characters speak an unbroken sadness, weaving in and out of one another’s voices, “shuffling, as anyone could tell, a limited number of possibilities.”

Estevez’s omniscient first-person voice steps in and out of his tale at will. Allusions abound: to history, to Castro’s revolution about to happen, to a wide range of the world’s literature and mythology, and to Christian scriptures and hagiography. Sentences mix voices and allusions and are frequently very long. Paragraphs go one for several pages. The narrative ends in fire.

In an “Epilogue,” the first-person narrator discusses the relationship between fiction and the real, between author and text, between word and reality. Estevez brings magical realism to a new level, and then theorizes about it. The novel achieves what its writer dares to do.