I think this line does a wonderful job of describing the juxtapositions that make the story. Nilo Cruz has many opposing forces acting at the same time. Marela and Conchita are caught up in the romance of the literature and contrast the disenchanted and desperate Cheche. Cheche's arguments for the cigar rolling machines oppose the romance of hand rolling the cigars that Santiago and Ofelia seem to value.
The reflection of Conchita, Palamo and Juan Julian in Tolstoy's story give a good structure. The passages from Tolstoy build our expectations and then Crus delivers scene's that match those expectations with the added benefit of a contrast of Tampa and St. Petersburg. Hot and cold.