25 01 2011


Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo


We clashed once, in early 2000, in the midst of editing the journal ExtramuroS, he being the great critic Rufo Caballero, and I the same as today, an obscure writer with politically incorrect eccentricities.

We published a text from Duanel Diaz that gave gorgeous conceptual tastiness to the caballero Rufo. He deserved it. It was, in addition, a delicious little essay where Duanel Diaz distorted theories to undress King Rufo a little, as in those days he had begun to drift into cockiness and despotism when it was time to legitimate or stigmatize the slightest little jealousy having to do with art. It was also, of course, a brilliant text like all of DD’s from when he was a student at the University of Havana, to the ire and envy of even the most mediocre and Marxistodox professor.

Rufus was pissed. He went to several bookstores in the capital and bought as many issues as he could of that impoverished edition of ExtramuroS. He turned into a censor thanks to his growing acquisitive power. Later he became a literary cop, when he wrote a letter of complaint to no less than Iroel Sanchez, president of the Cuban Book Institute, where he accused us of “sensationalism” and “attacking national cultural figures.” Still later, he also joined the City of Havana Provincial Center of the Book, with the objective of punishing the staff of ExtramuroS in the face of our more or less ignorant and terrified director (she didn’t want to lose her position which, in the end, she did).

He was a killing machine. RC wanted blood. DD laughed and rubbed his hands over there in his Lawton refuge (he’s my neighbor, although now he lives in the USA). I think everyone should applaud as in the boxing ring, as if the Cuban literary camp retained at least a hint of belligerence. Rufo Caballero then made a fool of a radical (it wasn’t even remotely our objective). He even called a kind of private auction so that his friends would write against Duanel Diaz (several of them did, but very awkwardly). The truth was that, at the height of my civil naivete, I wanted to take advantage of that rare interview to meet one of the most intelligent and iconoclastic critics of the 90s in Cuba, but I only scared myself in front of the injured ogre with his engorged ego.

We had to defend ourselves as badly as we did. Rufus was raging. He overwhelmed us with his wisdom, but we relied on the ExtramuroS editorial board to support us, it voted in favor of publishing that critique of DD versus RC. In the end, we lost the trust of our director general, and from then on he saw Margarita Urquiola, Norge Espinosa and me as a gang of outlaws cast in the editorial heart of the system of provincial magazines.

I never again interacted with RC. I had the good luck to run into him, one on one, always on the sidewalks of El Vedado and at bottom of the San Lazaro hill.  Maybe he lived in that area. Every time I saw him I had the urge to say hello and to tell him, in peace, that inquisitorial anecdote. But Rufo Caballero’s gaze into the distance told me he didn’t even remember me. I’m sure he never read me (unlike you, he himself escaped me). OLPL had been scarcely a moment of hatred, like so many others for him. A fly hovering over the learned cake of his fame. A mediocre little shit molesting the maestro. And, in more than one sense, it was literally so. Forgive me, if it’s possible, but I have no regrets. Because there was never any malice on our part, we just wanted to provoke an argument within our pacified Cubanesque intelligentsia.

Goodbye now for real, dear Rufo of the rhetoric. In a way that not even I understand your death quickly fills me with pain.  I counted on you secretly for the dismantling of the excessive cultural Cubanness. I still read you with humor and respect, with care and a desire to replicate if I had the aesthetic tools to carry it out. You were one of the good ones, it doesn’t matter how many rotten things you could have been involved in as part of floating in the revolutionary waters here and there. It doesn’t matter about the share of power you dreamed of investing yourself with to project from within the monster of your vehement voice. It doesn’t matter what you could have turned into to have a high political position in this Cuban of the changes that never change.

The truth is that we are left with less and less of the best. And more and more of the brutes.

Rufo Caballo, for you a flower not cut, but living. And for the last time, goodbye.





January 6 2011



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