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Call Me Cassandra

A Novel

Marcial Gala; Translated from the Spanish by Anna Kushner


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ISBN10: 1250863007
ISBN13: 9781250863003

Trade Paperback

224 Pages



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Ten-year-old Rauli lives in a world that is often hostile. His older brother is violent; his philandering father doesn’t understand him; his intelligence and sensitivity do not endear him to the other children at school. He loves to read, especially Greek myths, but in Cuba in the 1970s, novels and gods can be dangerous. Despite the signs that warn Rauli to repress and fear what he is, he knows three things to be true: First, that he was born in the wrong body. Second, that he will die, aged eighteen, as a soldier in the Cuban intervention in Angola. And third, that he is the reincarnation of the Trojan princess Cassandra.

Moving between Rauli’s childhood and adolescence, between the Angolan battlefield, the Cuban city of Cienfuegos, and the shores of ancient Troy, Marcial Gala’s Call Me Cassandra tells of the search for identity amid the collapse of Cuba’s utopian dreams. Burdened with knowledge of tragedies yet to come, Rauli nonetheless strives to know himself. Lyrical and gritty, heartbreaking and luminous, Rauli’s is the story of the inexorable pull of destiny.


Praise for Call Me Cassandra

"A spellbinding novel by one of the best writers of the Americas. Call Me Cassandra is Marcial Gala’s masterpiece, blending Greek myth with the Cuban intervention in Angola. At the heart of this incandescent tales burns sensitive Rauli, caught between the Gods and the Revolution, between a body that he longs to escape and a world that lets no one like him escape. Call Me Cassandra is Chronicle of a Death Foretold but blacker and brilliantly better."—Junot Díaz, author of This is How You Lose Her

“I admire greatly the nimbleness of Marcial Gala’s prose, the way his sentences swing effortlessly from emotional ruin to beauty to gallows hilarity and back again. As the storyline cuts between Rauli’s childhood in Cienfuegos and his life as a soldier in Angola, a portrait of an unforgettable and defiant spirit emerges. Call Me Cassandra is a searching and uncompromising story about the vast complexities of displacement, the breathtaking power of the imagination, and the tidal pull of fate. I love this novel.”—Laura van den Berg, author of I Hold a Wolf By the Ears

"Rich, haunting, dark and superbly alluring, Call Me Cassandra is a vivid, intoxicating novel that takes us into the dreamy daily life of a trans girl in the barracks of the Cuban army in Angola. Marcial Gala is one of the most brilliant storytellers working in the Americas today, and this is the kind of book of hope, sex, and the power of imagination that makes you want to join a revolution."—Pola Oloixarac, author of Mona

"It has been many years since I read a novel that excited me so much and so deeply. Marcial Gala surprises in the dexterity, audacity and elegance with which he articulates a very original fictional mechanism, creating a narrator who remembers the future as much as the past—but is condemned to have no one believe his predictions. Call Me Cassandra takes a brave and sensitive look at Cuba's participation in the Angolan civil war. If there are books that restore our faith in literature, and literature's ability to make the other known to us, this is one of them."—José Eduardo Agualusa, author of The Society of Reluctant Dreamers

"Fate hangs over this novel . . . A haunting meditation on identity and violence."Kirkus (starred review)

"The appearance of mythical beings during opportune times, Raúl’s pitiless predictions, and the unfolding events of a fraught time in Cuban history contribute to the power of Gala's creative spin on an indelible myth and imaginative, memorable, and heartbreaking tale of identity and fatalism."—Andrienne Cruz, Booklist (starred review)

"Lyrical and elegiac . . . Gala’s prose, elegantly translated by Kushner, perfectly conveys the protagonist’s dual realities . . . In the end, the author offers a singular invocation of immortality."Publishers Weekly

Reviews from Goodreads


Read an Excerpt

I’m sitting here, watching the sea.

It’s very early, so everyone in the house is still sleeping, but I got up, opened the door, and came out to the balcony. I brought over a chair from the living room to get comfortable. I’m ten years...

About the author

Marcial Gala; Translated from the Spanish by Anna Kushner

Marcial Gala is a novelist, a poet, and an architect from Cuba. He won the Pinos Nuevos Prize for best short story in 1999. His novel The Black Cathedral received the Premio de la Crítica Literaria and the Alejo Carpentier Award in 2012 and was published in English by FSG in 2020. Gala also won the 2018 Ñ Prize of the City of Buenos Aires–Clarín for Call Me Cassandra. He lives in Buenos Aires and Cienfuegos.

Anna Kushner, the daughter of Cuban exiles, was born in Philadelphia and has been traveling to Cuba since 1999. In addition to The Black Cathedral and Call Me Cassandra, she has translated the novels of Norberto Fuentes, Leonardo Padura, Guillermo Rosales, and Gonçalo M. Tavares, as well as two collections of nonfiction by Mario Vargas Llosa.

Ricardo Bacallao

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