"You are dead, she thought. How could you
have forgotten?" American tourist Clare has come to Cuba to attend the
Festival of New Latin American Cinema
where she finds herself standing a few hundred feet from her husband, Richard.
Richard's appearance should come as no surprise—a film scholar,
specializing in the genre of horror, he bought the tickets to the festival
himself—except that Richard is dead, the victim of a hit-and-run just
a month earlier. Clare sets off in pursuit of the living man she knows as her
dead husband, an apparent contradiction, chasing him through a city, Havana,
that is itself full of contradictions, with its "dead streetlights and
magnificent boulevards," where "buildings on the edge of total ruin
stood adjacent to hotels with doormen." Van den Berg's novel is a twisty
exploration of grief and perception as well as the ways in which we contribute
to our own undoing. "We are all erasing ourselves a tiny bit at a time,"
a professor of quantum physics and the afterlife tells Clare. "Drinking,
fantasies, secrets, denial, hysteria, double lives, suicide, ennui, schemes.
Those are just a few of the ways we disappear."