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Roberto Quesada: Big Banana (The Big Banana)

Quesada’s novel is a light-hearted and relatively lightweight novel about Eduardo Lin, a Honduran who wants to make it as a film star. At the start of the novel he has just moved to New York to fulfill his dream, leaving behind Mirián, his beloved. Mirián is probably more interesting than Eduardo. She is the daughter of well-off parents. However, she is obsessed with James Bond, particularly as played by Roger Moore (though not as played by Sean Connery, George Lazenby, Timothy Dalton or Pierce Brosnan). This obsession gets her so carried away that her parents are worried and plan a fake kidnapping so that she can be rescued by Agent 007 and, they hope, get over her obsession. The kidnapping ruse works well but Agent 007, played by would-be actor Eduardo, takes her to his car and proceeds to have sex with her. When Eduardo goes off to New York, reluctantly leaving her behind, her parents send her to a psychiatrist and they spy on the sessions behind a hidden window.

In the meantime, Eduardo is discovering New York. He works for Charlie, doing construction, but cannot make it as an actor. He moves into a house with other Latin Americans, including Casagrande, a colourful gay Chilean and José, an Ecuadorian who still considers all finance in terms of the devalued sucre. Through them he learns drugs (alcohol and cocaine, in particular), meets other Latin Americans, including a few women with whom he has brief affairs and learns to survive in New York. Despite his infidelities he still loves Mirián and despite her psychiatric treatment, she does manage to get her parents to pay for her to visit Eduardo in New York. And, despite everything else, he manages to get an audition, with Steven Spielberg no less, which works out quite well.

Quesada tells an affectionate tale. The mix of the various Latin American cultures is told with humour as the differences are brought up, not least by the individuals themselves. Eduardo is a fairly shallow character – a man of intelligence and some wit but not much more, while the excitable and colourful Mirián remains the most interesting character.

Publishing history

First published 1999 by Arte Público Press, Houston
First published in Spanish 2000 by Seix Barral
Note that the English translation was published before the Spanish version
Translated by Walter Krochmal