Searching for Graham Greene’s Havana

“It’s only when I re-read Our Man in Havana that I realized I shared a street with the hapless spy hero of Graham Greene’s novel. My own office was in a grand trading exchange in the old city that dated back to the early 20th century. At Calle Lamparilla 1, the building was just a short distance from the fictional vacuum cleaner store run by Jim Wormold. The novelist gives the address of Phastkleaners as Lamparilla 37, but I’ve walked up and down the dusty street before without locating any building with that number. There are no houses at all between 2 and 61, just a small park. This time, though, I’m returning to the search with fresh information. Calle Lamparilla cuts through the historic heart of the city down to my old office near the dock. Sidestepping a couple of elderly men playing the fool for tips at a restaurant window, I turn into the top of the street. Reggaeton music, catchy but crude, thumps from a window and there’s the usual chorus of oye! as Cubans greet each other enthusiastically, starting conversations at a hundred paces. A small crowd has gathered to admire puppies for sale in a cage. Arctic huskies are in fashion in humid Havana but this vendor is offering a Chihuahua and a poodle with sculpted leg fur. A few steps further down a man perched on a tall chair is having his head close-shaved surrounded by stalls laid out with bric-a-brac and fake designer T-shirts. There’s a reason for my newfound confidence about finding number 37. On an earlier trip I’d visited a branch of the City Historian’s office in a grand stone mansion just back from the waterfront. Inside an icily air-conditioned room piled high with papers I met a researcher named Arturo. … I described the little park I’d seen where I thought number 37 ought to have been. Such spaces were common when houses collapsed so it was possible the building Greene picked had simply gone. But after much scrolling Arturo unearthed a plan of Lamparilla from the 1930s and peering over his shoulder I realized that the numbering in those days was very different. 37 was higher up Lamparilla, much further from my office. …”
Chevrolets, Cigars & Men in Graham Greene’s Cuba
When Graham Greene Met Ernest Hemingway on the Set of ‘Our Man in Havana’
1960s: Days of Rage – Our Man In Havana (1958)

Centro Habana heading towards the Barrio Chino, home of the old Shanghai Theatre

About 1960s: Days of Rage

Bill Davis - 1960s: Days of Rage
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