(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

The Cutter is the story of a young man’s desperate attempt to leave what he believes to be a repressive Communist regime in Cuba. The novel is divided into five sections that mark the stages of Julian’s journey away from Cuba: “The Notice,” “The Fields,” “The Operation,” “The Shore,” and “The Refuge.” The story is told from the point of view of an omniscient third-person narrator.

The book begins when protagonist Julian Campos is twenty years old. Julian is a university student who has recently returned to Havana after having completed his years of mandatory military service in the Young Pioneers. Julian drifts off into the “freedom of sleep” only to be abruptly awakened by his ailing grandmother, Bernarda Del Rio, who informs Julian that someone is at the door. The visitor is a government official who hands Julian a telegram from the Ministry of the Interior. Julian has been waiting to leave Cuba ever since his parents received an “exit notice” five years earlier. Julian resents the fact that his parents left him behind. Although Elena and Ernesto, Julian’s parents, wanted to take their son with them to the United States, the authorities at the airport demanded that they leave Julian in Cuba or forfeit the privilege of leaving the country themselves.

Although Julian is disenchanted with the government in Cuba, he still believes that the legal system works. He is therefore convinced that if he goes through the proper bureaucratic channels, he will be rewarded with an exit notice from the Ministry of the Interior....

(The entire section is 646 words.)


(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Frase-Blunt, Martha. “A New Chapter.” Hispanic 5 (September, 1992): 30-34. Frase-Blunt examines the work of a new generation of Hispanic writers, including Virgil Suarez, Oscar Hijuelos, Sandra Cisneros, Julia Alvarez, Francisco Goldman, Ana Castillo, and others. An interesting overview of contemporary Hispanic authors, and the place that Suarez occupies among them.

Kaganoff, Penny. Review of The Cutter, by Virgil Suarez. Publishers Weekly 238 (January 4, 1991): 67. This brief review summarizes the plot of the novel, stating that it shows how ordinary people can be driven to undertake extraordinary risks.

Krist, Gary. “Other Voices, Other Rooms.” The Hudson Review 45 (Spring, 1992): 144-146. Krist discusses Suarez as representing the changing face of American literature, as an author previously “unheard and unpublished.” Krist suggests that the subject of The Cutter is revenge and that the novel is “tainted by politics.”

Los Angeles Times Book Review. Review of The Cutter, by Virgil Suarez. March 31, 1991, 6. Praises the novel as ambitious. Notes that the third-person, present-tense narration creates both distance and immediacy.

Robertson, Deb. Review of The Cutter, by Virgil Suarez. Booklist 87 (December 1, 1990): 718. A brief review giving a plot summary. Calls the book a reminder that oppression is not dead. The book retains its power by avoiding indignation and self-righteousness on the part of the author.

Stavans, Ilan. “The Cutter.” The New York Times Book Review, April 14, 1991, 20. In an unfavorable review, Stavans accuses Suarez of being a “dirty realist” who writes in “cold, unornamented, Hemingwayesque style.” Stavans says that Suarez’s characters are cartoon-like stereotypes and that the novel itself is melodramatic.

Suarez, Virgil. Spared Angola: Memories from a Cuban-American Childhood. Houston, Tex.: Arte Público Press, 1997. A powerful collection of autobiographical stories, essays, and poems from Suarez that reflects his development as a writer and as a human being. Paralleling the themes of The Cutter, it describes the pressures of male expectations, family gender battles, emigration, and adapting to a new culture.