Picture of author.

Marcial Gala

Autor(a) de The Black Cathedral: A Novel

4 Works 151 Membros 5 Críticas

Obras por Marcial Gala

The Black Cathedral: A Novel (2015) 100 exemplares, 2 críticas
Call Me Cassandra (2022) 49 exemplares, 3 críticas
SENTADA EN SU VERDE LIMÓN (2013) 1 exemplar
Es muy temprano (2010) 1 exemplar


Conhecimento Comum

Data de nascimento
País (no mapa)
Local de nascimento
Havana, Cuba
Locais de residência
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Cienfuegos, Cuba



Gala’s latest book translated into English is an eloquent testament to the power of story-telling as this tale hauntingly explores identity against cultural expectations.

Raul, a slightly built effeminate 10-year-old who enjoys reading the classics, living in Cienfuegos, Cuba is tired of being bullied, declares he wants to be Cassandra. The reader quickly learns that Raul/Cassandra knows he will die at age 19 while “fighting” in Angola. After, all Cassandra, the Greek prophetess, could state the future, but no one will believe her.

In a non-linear manner this smooth following narrative moves between Cienfuegos, the Trojan War, and the Angolan battlefields. Growing up Raul does not know peace as his violent older brother wants him to continue in his footsteps, and his philandering father wants him to be more like his older brother, and to console his grieving mother dressing like a girl pretends to be her dead sister. Just barely making being accepted by the Cuban army, Raul/Cassandra becomes part of the 1975 Cuban contingent being sent to fight in the liberation of Angola.

I enjoyed the mash-up of Greek and African mythology and deities in this coming-of-age tale.

Translator Anna Kushner does a flawless job with this disquieting tale that in turns is a gut-puncher and a lyrical sanctuary.

Overall, this is an inventive page-turner that uniquely and cleverly looks at gender identity cruelty when expectations are not met.
… (mais)
bookmuse56 | 2 outras críticas | Feb 7, 2022 |
Raul is nothing like the other kids. The ten-year-old boy can see dead people and he knows when those he meets will die. Of course, he cannot be understood by his peers or family and with his love for dresses and his very small body, he frequently becomes the victim of bullying and is called all sorts of names. He himself knows who he is, Cassandra, the ancient goddess who could predict the future but wasn’t believed. So is he. He grows up in his hostile Cuban surroundings and has to train for the military service which will lead him to Angola, a sister state of the Leninist-Communist era of the 1970s. His gift is a burden he cannot share with people, only with the gods he sees and whom accompany him.

Fiction that transgresses the border between fictional reality and fantasy are not necessarily my favourite genre, yet, Cuban born author Marcial Gala cleverly integrates both and thus creates a wonderful protagonist for his novel “Call me Cassandra”. Raul is gifted and cursed at the same time, not necessarily the best combination in a hostile world where he has to prepare for fighting in a war. Fantasy is a way to escape and maybe the only one to endure the world around him.

There are two fascinating aspects about the novel, first of all, Raul’s way of escaping his father’s virile expectations which he knows already as a small boy, he will never be able to fulfil. Thus, he can only find likeminded persons in the women around him, most of all his father’s Russian lover. Literature opens different ways of thinking where Raul can find alternatives to his life that he can only live behind closed doors as boys dressed in women’s clothes are nothing for the Cuban world of the 1970s.

The second, much more horrifying is what the transgender boy has to go through, first at school and later in the army. He is not only bullied but repeatedly the victim of violence and abuse. Yet, nobody seems to care, it seems as if it is ok since Raul does not fulfil the expectations and this does not belong.

Gala elegantly conveys Raul’s different realities and allows a fascinating insight in the boys unique thinking.
… (mais)
miss.mesmerized | 2 outras críticas | Jan 22, 2022 |
Marciel Gala's Call Me Cassandra is so utterly new and unexpected that it forces the reader to ask "how on Earth did Gala come up with this?"

Cassandra is actually Raúl, born physiologically male in post-revolutionary Cuba. Their "femininity" means they're bullied at school by classmates and at home by their father and brother. Their mother likes to pretend they're her sister Nancy, killed by cancer. Their favorite pastime is reading, and many of the classics they read are considered counterrevolutionary, which complicates their life even further.

At some point, they realize they are not Raúl, but Cassandra: the Cassandra of the Iliad and the Trojan War, the prophetess condemned to be disbelieved by everyone and to witness the destruction of her nation. Cassandra dresses as female, goes out dancing—and sees the future.

As Raúl, Cassandra joins the military (just barely meeting the physical requirements) and becomes one of the Cuban soldiers fighting in Angola. Raúl is called "Marilyn Monroe" by their fellow enlisted and "Olivia Newton-John" by their Captain, who dresses Raúl as his wife and forces Raúl to engage in sex acts. Cassandra sees the dead inhabiting the land where her unit is stationed and knows that she will soon be joining them when the Captain shoots her to prevent the spread of rumors that could sully his military record.

See what I mean? How on Earth did Gala come up with this? But it works!

The experience of reading the book is less confusing than my summary above might indicate. Cassandra is certain of her identity and explains herself to readers gradually, so that her complexity becomes clearer across the course of the novel.

Readers may want to do some quick online reading about the Cassandra of the Trojan War and the Cuban role in Angola, but no burdensome research is required; a Wikipedia article or two will do the trick. Having this information fresh in one's mind makes the parallels with the original Cassandra story clearer.

Call Me Cassandra offers a dark read. It's not for those who like their stories lighthearted with happy endings. But if you like reading tragedy—and I very much do—Call Me Cassandra offers a complex experience with a great many opportunities for reflecting on belief/disbelief, how political ideologies are manifested in daily life, and on a tale that has been capturing human imaginations for millennia.

I received a free electronic review copy of this title from the publisher via NetGalley; the opinions are my own.
… (mais)
Sarah-Hope | 2 outras críticas | Dec 28, 2021 |
Cienfuegos, Cuba. Using many narrators and short chapters, Gala tells a story of a neighborhood in a poor part of town. The story itself is fine--but the story telling is what makes it interesting. There is a constant strain of race deciding value--from prostitutes to laborers to teens to businessmen (running legal and illegal businesses). Their is La Rusa, a Ukrainian immigrant, bar owner, and pimp; Yasimi, his top girl with green eyes; Gringo; Guts; Piggy; Berta; the five Stuarts; Araceli; a ghost; Maribel; Barbaro; and many others. All narrate. All are a bit unreliable. Many make a living illegally--from minor offenses to horrible things. And as the story goes on, we see who succeeds at their dreams, who fails, and who has a perfectly average, normal life.… (mais)
Dreesie | 1 outra crítica | Feb 23, 2021 |



You May Also Like

Associated Authors

Kirsten Brandt Translator
Anna Kushner Translator



Tabelas & Gráficos