It's a Dog's Life: Canine Ethics in Leonardo Padura's <em>El hombre que amaba a los perros</em>

  • Emily A Maguire Northwestern University
Keywords Latin American literature, Cuban Literature, Leonardo Padura
Keywords Latin American literature, Cuban Literature, Leonardo Padura


El hombre que amaba a los perros (the man who loved dogs), the title of Leonardo Padura’s 2009 novel, is also the nickname that the novel’s protagonist Iván Cárdenas Maturell, a frustrated writer and sometime veterinarian’s assistant, gives to the elderly Spanish gentleman that he meets walking his borzois on a Havana beach. The man is later revealed to be Ramón Mercader, Catalán Stalinist and Leon Trotsky’s infamous assasin. Mercader is not the only character who could be identified as “a man who loves dogs,” however, as an unusually strong affection for their canine companions unites all three of the novel’s protagonists: the exiled communist Trotsky, his assassin Mercader, and Iván, Mercader’s Cuban interlocutor, who will go on to record their interwoven stories. The appearance of dogs at significant moments in the narrative is one of the ways that Padura guides the reader through a complex web of stories and shifting alliances and identities. Yet dogs are more than a simple leitmotif in the text. Rather, these moments of canine companionship expose the conflicts that arise between politics and ethics, and the very personal costs that result from political decisions. For all three men, dogs are “friends” that disrupt the novel’s “friendship plot” complicating the borders of political engagement and ethical behavior.



Author Biography

Emily A Maguire, Northwestern University
Emily A. Maguire, Associate Professor, Department of Spanish & Portuguese, Northwestern University.
Dossier: Post-Detection Padura