The Tribe

Carlos Manuel Álvarez

Translated by Frank Wynne with Rahul Bery

French paperback with flaps, 336 pages
Published 11 May 2022

Read preview

Teeming with life and compulsively readable, the pieces gathered together in The Tribe aggregate into an extraordinary mosaic of Cuba today. Carlos Manuel Álvarez, one of the most exciting young writers in Latin America, employs the crónica form – a genre unique to Latin American writing that blends reportage, narrative non-fiction, and novelistic forms – to illuminate a particularly turbulent period in Cuban history, from the re-establishment of diplomatic relations with the US, to the death of Fidel Castro, to the convulsions of the San Isidro Movement.
     Unique, edgy and stylishly written, The Tribe shows a society in flux, featuring sportsmen in exile, artists, nurses, underground musicians and household names, dissident poets, the hidden underclass at a landfill, migrants attempting to make their way across Central America, fugitives escaping the FBI, dealers from the black market, as well as revelers and policemen in the noisy Havana night. It is a major work of reportage by one of Granta’s Best of Young Spanish-Language novelists.

‘There is magic in these pages … [T]his book tells the actual story of Cuba as it exists today.’
— Jon Lee Anderson

‘Álvarez is very good on the absurdist rituals of zombie totalitarianism.… The Tribe vividly explores the more offbeat milieus and people of an extended Cuba.’
Lorna Scott Fox, TLS

‘A journalistically rigorous picture of Cuban life, The Tribe is characterized by the gaps between Álvarez’s subjects. Using interviews and on-site reportage, Álvarez profiles people from various socioeconomic backgrounds, with contrasting political affiliations. The sketches he compiles demonstrate a wide range of experiences and perceptions of Cuba. Álvarez allows the juxtapositions between these profiles to reveal a country that looks different from person to person…. A nation is, after all, nebulous – the only way to make an honest portrait is to approach it from myriad perspectives. In The Tribe, the resulting mosaic is rich for its nuance and contradictions.’
Morgan Graham, Chicago Review of Books

‘That rarest of books about a people that achieves a restorative function without idling in a documentarian mode, The Tribe’s gift to its subjects is not raising them as a hot topic, but by preserving their dignity in spite of the headlines.’
J. Howard Rosier, Words Without Borders

‘Àlvarez has smuggled an important ethnographic work inside the form of an entertaining and well-written crónica.’
— Alex Payne, Buzz Magazine

‘Álvarez does not try to instruct or speculate. He does not write on whether the Revolution succeeded or failed. He does not determine whether the leader was a hero or a tyrant. His book is not an explanation: it is … the history of a country told through its people.’
— María Teresa Hernández, AP News

‘This is one of those books you’ll read in a single sitting. Conveying readers to the turbulent landscapes of Cuba’s recent political past, it offers a refreshing assessment of the country outside of typical historic tropes, giving voice to ordinary Cubans, from artists and nurses to underground musicians and dissident poets.’
Lucy Kehoe, Suitcase Magazine

‘[The] sensory experience created by the writing style also warrants credit to the translator Frank Wynne. A translation that lives, breathes, has rhythm, gives you a fashion show, captures a very community-based, laced-with-history slang is no mean feat and given the underlying form of the text, the translation has to be very adaptable too. Their cumulative skill results in a treat … The Tribe really is a powerful and multi-faceted book.’
— Serena Chang, Sounds and Colours

Praise for The Fallen

‘A beautiful and painful novel that demonstrates the power of fiction to pursue the unutterable.’
— Alejandro Zambra, author of Multiple Choice

‘A war foretold that never takes place. A death foretold that never takes place. And in the middle of this is the inevitable collapse of a family and a country. The Fallen is a subtle, intelligent and profoundly moving novel which sketches, in elegant and thoughtful prose, a rarely seen Cuban landscape.’
— Alia Trabucco Zerán, author of The Remainder

‘The best in Latin American literature is here: with the precocious skill of someone who is a paragon of narrative resources and sensitivity, Carlos Manuel Álvarez vividly portrays the only identity that really matters: not national, but human. The Fallen is a museum of solitude and of the cracks separating our inner world from the one we live in and from those with whom we coexist.’
— Emiliano Monge, author of Among the Lost

Born in 1989, Carlos Manuel Álvarez is a journalist and author. In 2013 he was awarded the Calendario Prize for his collection of short stories La tarde de los sucesos definitivos and in 2015 he received the Ibero-American Journalism Prize, Nuevas Plumas, from the University of Guadalajara. In 2016 he co-founded the Cuban online magazine El Estornudo. He regularly contributes to the New York Times, Al Jazeera, Internationale, BBC World, El Malpensante and Gatopardo. In December 2016 he was selected among the best twenty Latin American writers born in the 1980s at the Guadalajara Book Fair in Mexico and in May 2017 he was included in the Bogota39 list of the best Latin American writers under 40. In 2021 he was named in Granta’s Best of Young Spanish-Language Novelists list. The Tribe, his first book, appeared in 2017 with Sexto Piso. He is also the author of two novels, The Fallen (Fitzcarraldo Editions, 2019), and Falsa Guerra (forthcoming with Fitzcarraldo Editions). 

Frank Wynne has translated works by authors including Michel Houellebecq, Patrick Modiano, Virginie Despentes, and Jean-Baptiste Del Amo. His work has earned many awards, including the IMPAC Prize, the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize, and the Premio Valle Inclán.

Rahul Bery is based in Cardiff and translates from Spanish and Portuguese into English. He has translated novels by Afonso Cruz, David Trueba and Simone Campos and his shorter translations have been published in the TLS, The White Review, Words Without Borders, Granta and elsewhere. He was the British Library’s translator in residence from 2018-2019 and his translation of David Trueba’s Rolling Fields was shortlisted for the 2021 Translator’s Association First Translation Prize.