17 01 2010

Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

Crushed parterres. Trails left behind by trucks of concrete beating on the asphalt, then pulverized until they form clouds of dust. To have to live with the doors and windows sealed, on the hill of the Avenida de Porvenir, with the paranoia of enduring respiratory illnesses or at least allergic reactions. Domestic lethargy within walls, outside the city rebuilds itself by fits and stars with cement and rum.

The neighbors complain in the official newspapers, but it as as much for the tragedy of this neighborhood of barriers as for the Department of the Construction. Lawton and Lawton and Havana want to grow, stretch, even break apart. In addition, they are resuscitating the Buttari softball stadium, the only semicircle where in my adolescence I could hit a home-run: literally hitting the ball out of the park.

Machinery, asphalt mixers and furnaces, rolling stones, inquisitive cranes all over Lawton’s roofs, pneumatic hammers, cables and sewer trenches, hard hats and boots, hunks of men of prosaic words and big naked torsos, all of it under the flat sun of our wintry January. People, we are in the middle of the second decade of the XXI century! Can we say that the exaggerated economic recovery has come to rescue us: Lawton as a canonic quarter, the paradigm to follow by Cuba and its villages?

More buses, state-owned taxis priced in CUCs, or unlicensed taxis at 10 pesos. Metro buses to Alamar or the Iron Bridge over the Almendares river, routes to Cotorro or the Malecon or Santiago de Las Vegas or Fraternity Park. I don’t want to leave here. I beg your pardon Lawton, if I ever insulted or maligned you, you crazy suburb, incurable crazy suburb, you.

Sometimes myopic and colorblind. Sometimes a piece of shit and a miracle. Almost never a token of luck, always a shroud. Don’t let my remembrances of you to go to exile. Do not tempt me to affront you in an “official period”. Better allow me to praise you in public, holding my ground in a blog. Do not let go of me Lawton, do not erase my name from your list of failures: I want to prostrate my self in the queue of those who did not learn how to abandon you at a proper time. Unrecognizable point and irreconcilable point of our country map.

The Hillock of the Burro shaved of his trees, baldness of the fatherland, deprived even of its pine trees. The Bus Terminal full of buses like in the “Golden Leyland Age.” Streetcar rails that the government does not stop selling to the best bidders in Japan as aseptic steel. Drugstores abandoned to their luck and the traders of snake oil. Cafeterias good to die in, without sandwiches and croissants. Staircases all over the place like in a wholesale market of stairs. A banished distillery even from itself, but still standing against the sepia skies of a post-revolution. The smoldering remains of “The Great Fire of Lawton-London” still full of smoke in the terror of the ancients (and there are almost no seniors left: everything left to us is effeminate comfort and modernity). The slaughterhouse, just the plain slaughterhouse, with its mooing cows abandoned to their luck standing in a train car (all Cuban travelers know by first hand experience of this classy bovine way of transportation). “The Count and the Railroad-Ferrari.”

And I, at the center stage of this jaundice iconographic nightmare, typing with shame, the mouthfuls and the potholes of true. I, silently screaming in your ear.

Translated by Zoquetote

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