The Palace of the White Skunks is a stylistically rich experimental novel that tells of the desolation, despair, and vicissitudes of a Cuban family prior to the 1959 Cuban Revolution. The novel, which deliberately and systematically undermines the conventions of the realistic novel tradition, is centered on Fortunato, a sensitive and restless young man living through a turbulent political period in Cuban history: the insurrectional struggle against the dictatorial government of Fulgencio Batista. Desperate to escape the disappointments and cruelties of his family (whom he refers to as “creatures” and “wild beasts”), as well as to escape from Holguín, a small, conservative rural town, Fortunato attempts to join Fidel Castro’s revolutionary forces. This flight for freedom, however, ends tragically when the young man is arrested, tortured, and executed by the government police.
The novel is divided into three parts: “Prologue and Epilogue,” “The Creatures Utter Their Complaints,” and “The Play.” In the fourteen pages that make up part 1, “Prologue and Epilogue,” the reader is introduced to the self-pitying and squabbling voices of each character, all members of the same family. At this point, the crisscrossing of voices is so entangled that it is extremely difficult to decipher during a first reading. These fragments of voices, however, will be contextualized and expanded during the second and third parts of the novel. With the (con)fusion of what is traditionally the first word (prologue) and last word (epilogue) of the traditional novel, the suggestion is made that there is no first or final word...
(The entire section is 672 words.)