The Art of Satire and João Cerqueira
Review by Grady Harp
Portuguese author João Cerqueira, having won a PhD in History of Art from the University of Oporto, happens to be one of the more clever and creative humorists writing today. His novels satirize modern society and use irony and humor to provoke reflection and controversy. Satire is the form of humor that holds people, or society in general, up for examination, and ridicules the follies revealed. Good satire should offer improving examples or at least make us consider choices we often take for granted. In this sense, satire is of huge value to society. While satire can be cruel to the victims it mocks, it should always be funny. Some of the great satirists whose ranks João Cerqueira joins include Lewis Carroll, George Orwell, Jonathan Swift, Günter Grass, Charles Michael Palahniuk, and P. G. Wodehouse – and I’m sure many have been left out of this too brief list.
The aspect of THE TRAGEDY OF FIDEL CASTRO that makes the book so mesmerizing is the author’s fearless treading on icons and rearranging them into a story that is far more poignant and simultaneously hilarious than anything being written today. To quote the author, ‘The Tragedy of Fidel Castro is a political and metaphysical thriller where Jesus comes to Earth to prevent a war, Fidel Castro writes his memoirs and makes a pact with the Devil, whores and farmers refuse Marxism, monks start a revolution in a monastery, and, in the end, a true miracle happens.
I always had an interest in the strange 1917 occurrence that happened in Fátima, when the Virgin Mary appeared to three Portuguese shepherd children, sharing several prophecies, including one that Communism would end. I also spent considerable time in Cuba and hear stories of those who experienced Fidel Castro’s regime firsthand. So, The miracle of Fátima and the Cuba experiences inspired The Tragedy of Fidel Castro. When I wrote The Tragedy of Fidel Castro I tried to create something truly original, involving contemporary problems and religion with humor and irony. As I said, I have a great interest in the figure of Fidel Castro in the question of the existence of God, and in the strange occurrence that happened in Fátima in 1917 (the Virgin Mary spoke to tree children and people saw the sun moving – millions of people worldwide still believe in this). So, I think that this novel will make the reader reflect on important issues in today’s world and also on the meaning of life.’
It is doubtful anyone could summarize the impact of this book better. Suffice it to say, this book is one that will always remain on the shelf to be read and re-read – especially as the world grows more and more ridiculous in the way we are handling it. This is simply great writing by a young but gifted master storyteller – and satirist!
Grady Harp, January 2014
TITLE: THE TRAGEDY OF FIDEL CASTRO
AUTHOR: João Cerqueira
PUBLISHER: RIVER GROVE PRESS