Landy* and Lunacy

17 07 2013

The nutcases approach me.

In Cuba it was the same. The United States need not be the exception.

Crazy. Beautiful. Docile. The sufficient causes of great massacres lie at the margins of great truths.

Cubanness, for example.

There is no genocide more perfect than Cubanness.

It began with torture on a ladder, and a poem bad and then some forged two hundred years later.  A mirror of tackiness.

Remember the slap that Antonio Maceo gave José Martí?  It wasn’t a punch, it’s written in the confiscated pages of the victim’s Campaign Diary.  It was a slap, which is how women in Cuba are hit when they misbehave or, as in this case, when they don’t shut up and they think they own all the explanations.

Martí as a faggot among the mass of mulatto machos from the mountains.

Maceo, with thousands of deaths under his belt, who, according to another war diary, killed an informer, a black woman who sold sweets in the rebel camp.  She didn’t choke from the rope, due to her rickets, so the bronze tyrant** lowered her hanging body so that he could break her neck and finish her off.

I love my country’s history.

My beautiful and lovely homeland.

Trucks drove up the Sierra Maestra with arms and drove down with coffee.  Batista’s little criminal soldiers, who couldn’t even kill flies, had to be paid 500 pesos (the ones that could kill weren’t there, but rather awaiting some declaration from the Sierra Maestra itself to go behead the leaders of the urban underground).

Things started early, don’t be fooled.

The armored train cost a pretty penny, but it paid off.

It seems that Martí too hired this or that anarchist for some selective assassinations there, in the very same metropolis that, in the end, won the war against Spain (the bloodiest that a New Yorker like him could imagine).

None of this is mine, I say it as a warning to those “democreformers” who follow my writing with guilt, trying to excommunicate me from their big bland cake of a homeland (anyway, I don’t want to chew on those scraps).

All is apocryphal and I disown responsibility among so many spokespersons.  They’re only nutcases.  Beautiful little nutcases that approach me and tell me their stories.

In Cuba as in the United States.

I still don’t understand exactly why.

Maybe they see in it my eyes.

They see that my eyes are the only eyes in the world that won’t forget their historical horror.

They’re right.

Never.

I love them so much that I couldn’t survive if one sensible day they ceased to approach me.

You, come to me now.

Translator’s notes:

*Landy is a nickname used by Orlando’s closest friends and family.

**This is a pun on El Titán de Bronce (The Bronze Titan) the historical sobriquet by which Maceo is known among Cubans.

Translated by: Alexis Rhyner and Yoyi el Monaguillo

12 June 2013

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A Farewell to Souls / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

17 07 2013


The first time I saw Havana was when I walked it holding your hand.

The city smelled of coarse capitalism, of drinks and meals suddenly very expensive, of transparent dusk, of lateral light, of placards that no one will renovate now, of Fidel Castro the cadaver, of dirty grey, of a stampede of guayaberas and neckties, of restrained madness, of cool air from the secret police’s modern sedans, that smell exactly like the modern sedans of the Cuban exile.

The tyranny of the market is universal.

The first time I walked Havana holding your hand I understood that I was losing it forever.

You didn’t know anything.  You still don’t know anything.  But, yes, all of it was a trap.

Castrismo in Cuba is a question of genetics and it is carried into the future like a curse of phobia against Man, against those who are different, against the Other.  Fears and mediocrities that make us miserly, mean, very mean, precisely against that which we love most and least want to see laughing with the rabid laughter of freedom.

The soul of Cubans is a roofless jail, open to the sky.  That is already the most immortal legacy of the Cuban Revolution.  There is absolutely no totalitarianism, rather only sadness.

You and your skirt of fine white fabric looked like eternity.

And eternity is ephemeral, we know that already.  A vision.

Havana passed by slowly at our side and didn’t touch us, we wouldn’t have allowed it to touch us.  That cowardly, shitty, abusive, ignorant city, where it’s impossible to say “I love you.”

The city was only a set.  Cardboard streets.  Cane pulp façades.  Prop arches.  A dictatorship of backroom deals where only assassins survive.  Little men of cotton padding.

Because only death could go on being real.

Death like a gleam of wisdom in our eyes.

Death like a promise that Havana will soon be an uninhabited planet.

Death like that gentle breath that we needed.

Death like the very sense for loving.

Death like the dead waters of Havana Bay, where the smokestacks hoist their flags of stinking incense, little cocktails of churches and animals decapitated in the middle of the street in the anonymous name of a god.

Ah.

I looked at my hands, with yours inside them, and told myself: it can’t be.

I wept under the rain of one cold front after another, we lost track of those tears among those belated little drops from the sky, and I talked and talked to you about attack ships on fire in my imagination, in a Cuban novel that would unfold among those stars that we watched burning out up there, on Orion’s pelvic sword; I talked and talked to you about infrared beams cracking on the edges of the main gate at Colón Cemetery; I talked and talked to you with a delirium right out of the end of times that wanted to be from the beginning of another time, another world, other souls, other bodies, another Cuba that, upon being possible, would no longer be possible, please; I talked and talked to you about things that you all, Cubans, will never create.

All those words, like the rain in the United States, that announces itself in two languages before falling on transmitters from coast to coast.

All those words, like digital maps that regenerate a strange reality, cognizable and unrecognizable.

All those words, said for the last time, and after them the silence facing the rest of you, Cubans, that you all would never believe.

You can’t.  You won’t.

The last time I saw Havana was when you let my hand go.

The city smelled of childhood, of abandoned mothers, of genocide.  I didn’t care.

I still don’t care.

As you get out of the trap, you also learn while getting out of the trap.

Remain, then, in the posthumous peace of the perplexed.

Translated by: Yoyi el Monaguillo

23 June 2013





Abel Prieto’s Travels / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

16 07 2013

Miguel Luna drawn by Abel Prieto, in Viajes de Miguel Luna.

“The day that rabble gets into the UNEAC*, we’re lost.”
— Abel Prieto, from his Viajes de Miguel Luna

What does a Minister of Culture think about when he turns into an author? What does he aesthetically cling to and what does he judge as too politically incorrect to include in his work? Does he play? Does he confess? How does he balance the influences and disguise the secrets of the State? Does he compare his stories with the classics of the Cuban canon or only with his contemporary competition? Does he censor himself? Is he sucking up to or betraying his superiors (His Superior)?

Viajes de Miguel Luna is an invaluable document for dissecting the mind of citizen Abel Prieto, public official in the upper echelons of power during the last two decades of the Revolution. Literally, the last. And the most profitable from the point of view of fiction: those of the decline and fall of just about everyone, here on the Island as well as in Exile.

The official presentation, in February 2012, at the Book Fair of the Cuba Pavilion, required (perhaps due to the bulk of the novel, 540 pages) three veterans in turn: Graziella Pogolotti, Eduardo Heras León and Rinaldo Acosta. To this was added the presence of Ambrosio Fornet, Roberto Fernández Retamar, Eusebio Leal, Miguel Barnet, Frank Fernández, Fernando Martínez Heredia, Reynaldo González and, of course, his predecessor in the post, transformed that evening into an involuntary vision of a generational wake.

A devotee of Lezama among the earliest after the death and burial of Lezama (between the ambulance sent by Alfredo Guevara and the bugs planted by the secret police), at last Abel Prieto achieves the miracle of a book as arduous to read as Paradiso, although for diametrically opposed reasons: Lezama’s magnum opus is an untranslatable labyrinth that forges its very reader (the rest get burnt out); while Viajes de Miguel Luna is the spasm of the legibility of Cuban dialect loud and clear (quasi-military jargon), an anecdotal hyper-transparency that ends up overstuffed (the accursed circumstance of the drivel-ography of Miguel Luna, or “Mick or Mike or Miki or Mickey Moon or simply Mikimún” from all sides).

In a Stakhanovite effort of “popular dissemination”, written like volunteer work from behind his political desk at the Ministry of Culture or the Central Committee of the Communist Party, this is the sympathetic saga that the New Man had been expecting to read since 1989 (the perestroika on paper); it is the coming-of-age story that our middle class cried out for, demanding a relief from the vacuum of this Imaginary Era of transition toward State capitalism; it is the best seller that we intellectuals can give as a gift on a Sunday in May to our mothers (without awaiting the death of a Rosa Lima, such an affectionate repressor); and it is, also, more than a travel epic, the last of the “scholarship novels” of 20th century Cuba, that genre that was born senile, yet has yielded so many functionaries during peace time.

There is a lot of kitsch in this type of tropical gaiety in the gulag: from Marcos Behmaras to Enrique Núñez Rodríguez, from José Ángel Cardi to F. Mond, among other ourselves-and-others, the text wants to laugh but what comes out isn’t a smirk, but something worse: a grimace (rigor mortis of the State).  Falsehood as poetic license used by a bully in search of authenticity.  Because here we won’t find even traces of the stigmatizer of young Cuban artists, nor of the audiovisual censor, nor of the manipulator of pro-Cuba solidarity movements, nor of the hijacker of Cuban exit permits, nor of the bandit-hunter setting his sights on the Encuentro de la Cultura Cubana magazine, including the coercion of this island’s hostages who collaborated with it (a publication that, after observing a minute of silence at UNEAC when its editor/founder died, they finally managed to sabotage).  But it is precisely these omissions that open up a bridge, a great bridge to our residual freedom in so many perverse readers.  Thus, the archeological eloquence of these Travels of Miguel Luna will face the researchers that will descend from, let’s say, North American academia to celebrate the Great Centennial of 2059 — mulg-kästrismo beaming as one of the fine arts.

The proof of success, guarantor of an imminent Critics Prize and perhaps a National Literary Prize, is that this book by Abel Prieto is nowhere to be found inside the country: it sold out before its introduction into the market!  This will not impede Abel Prieto’s trips now to collect praise and euros from a parliamentary Europe suffering from nostalgia in its terminal stages, plus the corresponding thousand and one translations of this work, including into Mulgavo: a dead post-socialist language (part Basque, part North Korean, part Iranian?) in which an unbearable percentage of monologues of our “Kübb-hím-póet-Míkel-Lún” are written (the ex-minister uses Mac or gets by with the accent marks in Microsoft).

It is curious that Cuban literature (the same as with the more recent Dictionaries of Cuban Literature) does not dare over-mention that dystrophic year of 1989.  In style and theme, we are nailed to a remote, ludicrous past: Cuba’s trauma is that no holocaust will be tragic.  Our day-to-day amnesia can’t withstand it, and we lack the capacity to narrate the horrifying void of a nation forced into fidelity, at the whim of a personalistic power that made us live un-chronologically outside of global history, anachronistically in that stop-motion time of absolute totalitarianism.

Abel Prieto, upon writing (or dictating to his deputy ministers) the screenplay of this Goodbye Lenin awash in semen, need not be the exception: the action transpires in hops between the September 29 of 1948 and the September 29 of 1989, while the author’s alter-ego masturbates from the start (over the fields and cities goes the onanist…), while Congolese hutias as demonic as they are endemic (pardon the redundancy) masturbate, while the masses and sub-Soviet leaders of the putative proletarian utopia masturbate, while the mobs rush out to shoot themselves to death, no sooner does mulg-demökratia arrive in the Pastoral Agricultural Democratic Popular Socialist Workers Republic of Mulgavia.  It’s obvious that Abel Prieto can see the processes of change like a blitzkrieg of mafias (Mulgavo-American?) and fluorescent McDonald’s icons, where today’s communist hierarchs will without doubt be masters of war and capital (let us trust that it will have been for health reasons, not this kind of imagination, which will have cost him his ministerial purse).  Of that hypothetical country that yesterday was associated with Cuba, we know nothing after page 540 (Wikipedia isn’t God either).  For the author, it probably wasn’t worth wearing oneself out on an anti-climax of economic growth, the opening of borders, respect for human rights and, if it’s not too much to ask, the training of Mulgavan Boy Scouts by People in Need to fratricidally undermine a still surviving little revolution in the Caribbean Sea.  I don’t recall even one single mention of the word “revolution” in the novel, as if this situation were out of context, of zero influence on the thesis (even though “counter-revolution” is mentioned and even provokes a fainting spell in a supporting character: someone taken out of the novel who writes the character who in turn is written by Abel Prieto).  Ecstatic with retrospectives that cover up any association with local historical horror, the jovial jargon of the sexagenarian Abel Prieto achieves a novel for all and for the good of all.  It doesn’t matter that he himself could have gone to jail for daring to write it in real time.  It doesn’t matter that he would have been shot by firing squad without trial for having published it then in the “Red Island in the Black Sea”.  What is transcendent here is that all future time must be better (an idyll of the Left), and that this text in Cuba now proves it against our Eternal Enemies.  Thus, due to its ecumenism or maybe its communist Catholicism, from the theorist of global anti-imperialism, to our provincial dissidents with “Made in Miami” digital copyrights, all should find something to praise in this mammoth opus by Raúl Castro Ruz’s current salaried subordinate.  Congratulations!  I suppose the consensus-building had to start somewhere.

What does an advisor think about when he turns into an author?  What does he politically cling to and what does he judge as aesthetically correct to include in his work?  Is he free or does he run every concept by State Security?  Does extensive writing distract his parliamentary concentration, is it a diversion of resources from the Council of State, or is it simply an extracurricular hobby edited in record time by Letras Cubanas publishing house?  Is this an exemplifying work meant to monitor the literary market (for good reason, the novel imparts a Delphic mini-course on adolescent-adventurer readings)?  Will Abel Prieto retire with this dramatic effect or is he already plotting a new hilarious project for his next two decades in power?

In an interview, the author implores us to not abandon reading his work until the KONIEC** (“not because it’s so good, but because I’d like it if someone reached it”).  As with Paradiso, in effect, I recommend resisting until the bitter end the half-a-millennium of pages in Viajes de Miguel Luna.  Maybe this is the novel that, since the “Revoluzoic Era”, Armando Hart should have written for us?  This is a book that can be put to use as a Rosetta Stone of 21st century socialism, Cuban style, and it includes, as a bonus track, a histrionic colophon that parodies, or maybe pays homage to, the telenovela writer Mayté Vera, not to mention half of a century’s worth of excellent vignettes signed by the author (the untapped potential of a Marjane Satrapi emanates from Abel Prieto, self-portrait included).

Mikimún has died, long live the Ministrún.  Quod scripsi, is crisis.

Translator’s notes:
* National Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba
** This is the Polish term for “finish” or “end”.

From Diario de Cuba

Translated by: Yoyi el Monaguillo





A LEZAMA FOR MOPPING (DUPING)

28 01 2011

FROM “THE FLIGHT OF THE CAT”* TO YOUR MOTHER’S TWAT**

Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

There’s the lyrical Lezama Lima, of unintelligible flight, before whose spirals we bow because to read them would be in vain, and a pain.  And good for us.  That Lezamian lyricism never had much success, except for quoting and thus accumulating a certain intellectual prestige.  That obscure yet not at all secretive writing, crippled by its symbols meant to multiply its meaning, was pure inner space, the intestines of an author that regurgitated everything.  Solipsistic saliva, sometimes another mood of our sentimental being, interjections included.  The least Cuban thing in the world, let there be no doubt.

But there’s also that big impressive bastard Lezama Lima.  The prose-writer that flirts with the prosaic, although, unfortunately, his overdiscursive always impeded it.  The man who filled his novels with a homo Bible to defend ourselves not just against the old Catholic God, but also, when it arrived, against the new communoid State.  The guy who made guys hurl themselves at other guys, using strange verbs and invented adjectives, just the same at the end of our tiny Republican era as at the beginnings of the overstaying Revolution.  The magister penis within whose paragraphs of impossible punctuation the only word missing to label the human cock is precisely that one: cock (at this point, the professional prudes may now proceed to spit on me, they won’t be the first: the Ministry of Culture and the secret police have beaten you to it).

That Lezama Lima of “your mom’s twat” and “no, a thousand times your mom’s twat” (they’re quotes from his Oppiano Licario), the one who disguised genitalia with undershirts because if the vagina appears… I don’t know, Fronesis cannot enter (now this quote is mine, luckily), the one of voyeurism in the dumpiest movie theaters and pissing on the shoes of the man that, during the last macho night, stuck it in you (in his Paradiso, that is), the one of the 20,000 Eudoxus cured of Foción’s father’s madness (army of characters that Cuban literature has not had the cojones to process), the one of incestuous three-ways and illicit trysts and throat-slittings with bound-up balls, plus the nocturnal groping of Parisian testicles by an arid Arab… anyway, that masterful Lezama Lima of anti-lyrical substance (even with his exhibitionistic and extravagantly thundering glands of cornaline agate), the one of certain etymology, for example: templar (“a delicate word in the extreme”), the one who waited for the death of his mother to then escape into desire, or at least publicize it at the UNEAC (National Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba).  That underground author shall be forever our best unknown.

Lezama Lima deserves a little phallus upon his tomb the size of Revolution Square (in his work there is no lack of such penile visions, even right in the middle of a ragtag mob of students against the dictatorship of the time).  But our baroque man is little by little getting stuck in the cultural swamp of mythic bullshit (even the minister of culture was a Lezama admirer!), as if the classics for their part (not very saint-like in their beginnings) weren’t fundamentalist fornicating fauns.

Lezama Lima was not.  A shame.  Those will be, I suppose, the limits of his colossal writing, never delirious.  There he lacked, I think, the touch of Truth and Life in the experience of reading him.  Sex for him continued to be a downfall.  He wasn’t able to denounce head-on those who expropriated from him, because social blackmail works marvelously against someone who doesn’t dare to declare out loud his own pleasures.

Lezama Lima died sorely needed.  He owed us a bit more.  In his novels he was just starting to liberate himself of that more respectable and private pose.  Perhaps his last verses tried to erase, by invoking the absolute void, all the back and forth of his countless paths and supposed poetic system, maybe to later insert in that black hole, if death had given him a chance, the macrogenitosomatic magnificence of that massive, pertinent prick.

Ah, spit away.

It’s not without significance that no biographer (he doesn’t have any, of course) has been concerned with identifying a Cuban who physically loved José Lezama Lima. Our man never found the love of another human being (that of the readers doesn’t count for shit, don’t play the anointed ones now). He only managed mediocre maternal friendships, wholesale spies (they sent anonymous threats as easily as they sent ambulances, so that he wouldn’t die without saying that Cuban healthcare was free), and the semen of strays in exchange for his salary.  And that imago truly does disconcert me.  The whole time he lived in internal exile in respectable suit and tie (except when fantasizing in his writing, and that gift saved him).  The whole time he keeps getting parodied for his spicy, asthmatic wit and his affectionate touchy-feeliness (disciples still survive him who speak wheezing with emphysema, as a guarantee of authenticity).  We don’t even know if upon ejaculating his prose he once cried out (in this sense, his transcendence is mute, almost null).

José Lezama Lima died a virgin, he could’ve been our first fag martyr. The little joy found in Cuba stuck a tampon on his pride of being the best (in gay pride he didn’t even reach gay shy).  Maybe his cross was exactly that.  Being forced into a closet, and on top of that saddled in a corset.

Translator’s notes:

*”The Flight of the Cat” refers to El vuelo del gato, the first novel by Abel Prieto, published in 1999.  Prieto is Cuba’s current Minister of Culture and widely regarded by Cuba’s independent artists and intellectuals as the cultural gatekeeper of the regime.

**This refers to a very popular Cuban epithet, el coño de tu madre, yelled at someone in anger, which literally means “your mother’s twat”.  This epithet, and countless versions of it, is also very common in at least Argentina, Spain and Venezuela.

Translated by: Yoyi el Monaguillo

November 30 2010