The Last Masquerade
Excited about the prospect of watching Eleanora Duse perform on stage, Lucho Belalcazar and Wenceslao (Wen) Hoyos decide to travel from their native Bogotá to Cuba. Maybe, they think, they will be able to interview the great actress. On their journey, Lucho and Wen happily and carelessly explore a sweltering world, populated by strident characters: an elegant bearded lady, hermaphrodite nuns, people who collect “castanets and dead ladies’ hands,” a gorgeous Communist agitator, and even some depressed ghosts.
Structurally, The Last Masquerade sputters between chapters detailing Lucho and Wen’s pursuit of the actress (with some erotic detours) and Eleanora’s lackluster soliloquies on her life and thought. The action moves between the past, the present (the 1920s), and the hereafter. The writing is colorful, breathless at times. There are some neat twists. Regrettably, I quickly grew annoyed with the protagonists’ attitude: “we are young, we are beautiful and we are elegant.” The dramatics, the exaggeration, along with too many “sinewy arms,” “milky skins,” and “thick eyelashes,” made me feel I was on an erratic carnival ride. I couldn’t wait to get off.