A Simple Habana Melody: From When the World Was Good

Hijuelos, Oscar

| 2002

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It is 1947 and Israel Levis, a Cuban composer whose life had once been a dream of music, love and sadness, is returning to Habana, Cuba from Spain where he has just recovered from the physical and spiritual malaises resulting from his experiences in Paris -- then Buchenwald -- during the Nazi occupation of France. (A devout Catholic, Levis had been mistakenly identified as a Jew because of his name.)Arriving back in Habana, Levis's mind is reeling with beautiful memories of his life before the war, a life of pleasure and excitement that he owes, in part, to an unrequited, nearly "chivalrous" romance with a certain Rita Valladares, a singer for whom Levis had written his most famous song, "Rosas Puras" or "Pretty Roses." This 1928 composition becomes the most famous rumba in the world; and it is the song, symbolic of the composer's love for Rita Valladares, that sets Levis' life in Europe...

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