(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

The plot of Three Trapped Tigers is conceived as a nightclub show, introduced by the frenetic multilingual wordplay of the emcee of the famous Tropicana cabaret in Havana. His first word is “Showtime!”; his last ones are “Curtains up!” At this point a number of characters, some of them present in the club and introduced by the emcee, narrate sections of the text, with no further introduction or explanation. There is a one-sided telephone conversation, a letter, a story appearing as a series of fragments placed at various points in the text, and another story in two translations (only in the Spanish original) and complete with “corrections” by the author’s wife, who turns out to be a fictional creation of her husband. There are even fragments of a woman’s sessions with a psychiatrist. The author has said that the text consists of a series of “voices,” and that voices have no biography, which means that the only possible coherence results from the reader’s ability to assemble the fragments into a more or less meaningful whole.

There is a certain symmetry to the fragments, in that several characters, stories, and themes introduced in the first half are mirrored in the second, in some cases approximately the same distance from the end as their initial appearance is from the beginning. Thus, a story of Silvestre in which he and his brother witness a murder on the way to the cinema is related by him to his friend Arsenio Cué near...

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(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Cabrera Infante, Guillermo. “Wit and Wile with Guillermo Cabrera Infante.” Interview by Suzanne Jill Levine. Americas (English Edition) 47 (July-August, 1995): 24-29. In this interview, the Cuban-born author discusses his career and the influences that have shaped it. He talks about his Cuban and British roots, his love of puns, and his interest in film and music. A good source of background information.

Firmat, G. P. Review of Guillermo Cabrera Infante and the Cinema. Hispanic Review 59 (Summer, 1991): 370-371. Firmat asserts that Hall’s book “fails to produce new or interesting insights into the work of the author of Arcadia sodas las noches.” However, Firmat does contend that Hall makes some interesting comparisons between the film version of Tres tristes tigres and Some Like It Hot starring Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon. Also notes that Hall’s book contains an excellent bibliography.

Siemens, William. Review of Guillermo Cabrera Infante and the Cinema, by Kenneth E. Hall. Symposium 44 (Fall, 1990): 225-227. Offers an in-depth discussion of the place of film in the work of Cabrera Infante. Siemens mentions that Hall traces the evolution of Cabrera Infante’s thought concerning modern theories of film criticism, but notes that Cabrera Infante “may have undergone the same kind of transformation that Silvestre experiences in Tres tristes tigres, between an obsession with film and an equally strong preoccupation with the text.”

Souza, Raymond D. Guillermo Cabrera Infante: Two Islands, Many Worlds. Austin, Tex.: University of Texas, 1996. An informative and lively biography of one of the most prominent contemporary Cuban writers. Souza’s work offers intriguing insight into Cabrera Infante’s family history as well as his literary career.

Vargas Llosa, Mario. “Touchstone.” The Nation 266 (May 11, 1998): 56-57. Vargas Llosa offers a tribute to Cabrera Infante, noting that even when Cabrera Infante was nearly destitute in London, “from the typewriter of this harassed man . . . instead of insults there poured a stream of belly laughs, puns, brilliant nonsense and fantastic tricks of rhetorical illusion.”