Tell Me About Cuba

12 01 2010

Taken from
Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

Voland Editorial has just published a 150-page anthology in Italian, which claims on the front cover to be “by young Cuban writers.”  The Flame in My Mouth is a compendium of 11 authors resident on the Island, anthologized by the Italian academic Danilo Manera. The book also includes a witty and symptomatic “more or less serious decalogue for understanding Cuban writing” by Jose Miguel Sanchez, YOSS) and an epilogue – “Orphans and Ghosts” – where Manara pays tribute to his particular way of reading the local context beyond literature. In fact, these two texts are so creatively polemic that they could almost be read as the two most experimental fiction writings in this Voland 2009 anthology.

Of course, the anthologized young writers are no longer quite so young: their average age is 33 years. But this, in the Cuban literary field means that their careers as writers are still in the eternal phase of taking off (spreading the wings of their own voices and cutting ties with the landing gear of our tradition). Namely, it is about authors who have already won a cash price and have published a title with a national editorial or in a foreign anthology like The Flame in My Mouth, and of course, who have graduated from the literary workshop ‘Onelio Jorge Cardoso’ (an eclectic literary forum, led rigorously but with an open mind by the writer Eduardo Heras Leon; a hangar where every year dozens of so-called ‘young writers’ from all over the country land).

The eleven anthologized, in order of appearance, on this new encounter of Cuban writing away from Cuba, are: Yunier Riquenes (Granma, 1982), Michel Encinosa Fú (Havana, 1974), Osdany Morales (Havana, 1981), Mariela Varona (Holguín, 1964), Ahmel Echevarría Peré (Havana, 1974), Delis Gamboa (Granma, 1976), Agnieska Hernández (Pinar del Río, 1977), Yordanka Almaguer (Havana, 1975), Raúl Flores Iriarte (Havana, 1977), Gleyvis Coro Montanet (Pinar del Río, 1974) and Jorge Enrique Lage (Havana, 1979).

From the beginning of the project, as he said in an exclusive interview, the anthologist Danilo Manera decided to include only writers who reside in Cuba: “As an observer from outside, who knows that an essential part of Cuban literature is written from outside of Cuba (as has also happened in many other countries and periods of time), I have chosen the perspective of those who live and write from Cuba, with all the unconscious elements of self-censorship and all that it implies, even though some of these authors have declared themselves to be in a state of self-exile, focusing on paper as a place of freedom.”

José Miguel Sánchez (YOSS), on his theoretical text, seems to point in part to this idea when he states: “except those rare references in a positive or negative sense […], whose more famous works come in and are passed from hand to hand, we suppose that the Cuban writers who have abandoned the island in any way do not have much influence on the national writing corpus. The same happens with the ‘marielitos’ and Cuban-american writers, no matter how successful they are […]”. “It is almost a rule that when a writer leaves, he/she disappears. In practice, they stopped being published and even talked about, in Cuba”, whereas “other live authors resident in Cuba can be very well known outside the country while inside, their fame is only a distant echo.”

To a foreign reader I suppose The Flame in My Mouth would be an editorial novelty in every sense. To the few Cuban writers that have access to the book (included the anthologized ones), many of these stories are very well known after circulating here in the past few years. On a diasporic, and not a monolithic way, these authors (among other absent names), represent the generation of the “two thousands” or “Zero Year” whose works, provided that they do not cross the limit of the officially illegible, have overcome the innate resistance of the Cuban publishing houses.

As Danilo Manera said, these “are texts that do not have a very critical appearance, and they are never direct. The aesthetic of this generation appears eclectic and inclusive. They have a big bulimia, a desire of ironically supply themselves with many references: from classic to pop, from science fiction to splatter, from movies to music stars; plus other cross-over zones, fusion, parody, with great ability in the assembly of all this material. This literature fishes in a virtual and global imaginary scene, and a typical space of their creators is the dimension of the e-zines (like Cacharro(s) and now the blogs). But, like writers, they very often express themselves in first person, maybe to give a strong connotation of experience to their work, as a relief against their isolation: being a song or a scream…”

Translated by LM and BH



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