La Habana, Cuba, January 2018, canon digital, ©Sylvie G
I read only one book by Ernest Heminghway, The Old Man and the Sea, when I was very young, but this book has left a mark on me. Heminghway’s « iceberg » style is part of my quest for simplicity when I write prose or poetry. I did not know much about him when I was in La Habana, but I could not miss the mention of his name in many places, including the Ambos Mundos hotel, where he lived in the thirties ( he lived in Cuba for about twenty years). It inspired me to read more about this tragic author: four marriages, a lot of alcohol, physical and psychological suffering, he is part of a family where suicide was passed from generation to generation and himself committed suicide at the age of sixty-one. But this Nobel Prize winner has left his style as a legacy. I think of all this when passing by the hotel, which is beautiful. The bar on the ground floor is inviting, but the only place I did not like at all to Habana: not only there was no more coffee, tea or local beer (which can be forgiven), but it was also the only place where the two musicians were not at all up to the standards and not at all nice, the opposite of what I experienced elsewhere in La Habana. Then I tried the Floridita, Heminghway’s favorite bar, but the excellent music was too loud and there were really too many people.
But most of all, I was at the end of my journey in the Caribbean and I still had not had any rum, which is everywhere in the region and very cheap. Even in Martinique, where the best rum of the Caribbean is found (according to the « taximan » and an Italian sommelière met on the ferry between Martinique and Saint Lucia), I was content to smell it in a glass without really wanting to drink it. But at La Habana, it seemed appropriate to drink rum, as long as it was the same as the one Hemighway had. In an anonymous bar, the list of daiquiris was long, the bartender told me Hemingway drank rum and ice, confidently.I woke up the next day (well, not really, I spent the day in bed) with a huge headache, with the satisfaction to have tried rum (for the first and the last time), the same as Hemingway (well, maybe).