The country is known for Che Guevara, Fidel Castro, and cigars, but Cuban society itself has rarely, if ever, been directly explored by an Arab novel, ”Picasso’s Bats” by Algerian novelist Amel Bachiri.
Bachiri thus gives her readers a wakeup call: dreams and passions can still be achieved.
She chose the late 1960’s to set her novel. Her main character is a painter, Alvaro, a man who thinks of himself as “a man without luck; providence gave up on me at my first breath.
The whole novel is a build up to that moment: will he meet Picasso or not? What will happen if and when that meeting actually takes place?
The goal he has chosen is difficult, he is a young Cuban trying to reach the most famous painter of his time, who lives in France, and without knowing a lot about the legendary painter or any specific purpose from meeting itself or what he would do after meeting with the great Picasso if the encounter occurs.
Novel deals with Picasso’s reputation in the small city in which he lives. According to those who met him and saw him at the bull fights who Picasso is fond of.
He is arrogant, does not mix with the locals and lives in his own world away. We learn that Picasso stated that he prefers bats to women.
”Picasso’s Bats” is successful in capturing Cuban society’s spirit. Poverty and misery, women choosing the oldest profession just because there is no other way to sustain a modest living, the decadence that stain some characters with open viciousness towards the weaker and the poorer while showing the joie de vivre for each of these colourful personalities.