Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo
When I was a biochemist, in cyanotic laboratories for imported carcinogenic reagents and the local air conditioning (much better than the caverns of the University of Havana, where all research is a joke to obtain scholarships abroad and stay there), among colleagues we were always more aware of Cuban literature than the world’s scientific journals, Zoé Valdés was the absolute best-seller, elbow to elbow with Reinaldo Arenas whom we read, unfortunately, posthumously.
But Zoé Valdés, moreover, survived. She was, in fact, the only living writing we knew in those years of very new authors with very good intentions but such bad anthologies. Zoé Valdés was irreverent irrefutable proof that there was a survival of Cuba in situ, her photos on the book jacket and her uncovered prose embodied a plus of courage and madness before our intranational experience of silences not so much sane as cowardly to the point of complicity.
I remember almost nothing of her early novels, those that we trafficked covered in pages from Granma of the nineties. I remember only the intensity. The magnificent tantrum. The grotesque passed by the pathetic and the pair a touch of the bad girl from her voracious naiveté. The political and the promiscuous, or course, running through it all like a tour de fuck. And also that little prudish word that the paraliterary police of the proletariat have tried to stigmatize: the vile thing (ignorant that the only vile thing has been our drab realism of little posts and conferences at the ministerial level).
Vile Valdés. What imbeciles. What a compliment.
Time has passed. Zoé Valdés, who erupted like a damn whirlwind, as the example and envy of the rest of the Cuban literary camp (the rest of the barren Cuban literary camp: rheumatic rhetoric of the Revolution), accused of being manipulative and lying by the intellectuals of respectable work and repudiable opinions, narrating Fidel like one obsessed (or, more risky yet, like a possessed girl is portrayed sitting with her legs scissored open), far beyond the weariness and the censorship, typing too many novels but each one a daughter of a riotous frenzy (at times hoarse), incorrect with balls, belligerent beast that can make certain paragraphs incandescent, chained in the streets of a country called Paris from where the Despotavana is the only impossible word, signing tomes and campaigns that will prick the lame ass of our highest authorities, “sow” (a word so Lezama-like, though no one suspected it today) as the call hears in more than one official office of Cuban culture, and what’s more, insatiable, undryable.
But she is also living the years of an exile in extremis which already begins to weigh on her work like a life sentence. But she is also a woman very alone in her war stories of best-sellerdom (every writing limit deserves the gift of this distancing).
Recently Cuba offered her another of its repugnance of repudiation, organized with the same script as in Banes and La Sorbona. The arrogance of those who consider themselves paradise on Earth has no measure nor control. And it is logical. Paradise like the concept it is, including God’s paradise. A terminal tyranny. A smiling socialization at the cannon. A blessing to pepe kettledrums. Since I was a boy the idea of paradise terrified me that my mother announced like in games after our respective deaths. My father already died in 2000. Hopefully he is not waiting for us there.
My solidarity with Zoé Valdés before this practice of intellectual stoning organized by those who do it “in solidarity with Cuba.” I’ve collided uselessly with her in the Cuban blogosphere, because in my debutant’s deliriums I think that in her rush to the tribune she has ended up attacking Cubans who serve with the same jargon of political paranoia used here by the Security organs. I don’t ask her pardon for these collisions, nor does she need a damn thing from me. Zoé shines like a dark diamond in this shadow that never will see I am me. But I say now that these outbursts will not repeat themselves.
I don’t want to know even one more post. I don’t need to know her to defend her against the fucking jiribillos who cause trouble (I lived one in the FIL of Guadalajara 2002 against Letras Libres magazine and I trembled that time at the gate and swore I would avenge the crime with my blog). A subterranean Zoé knows me better. That was the start of the Verbum, when the Barbarim of her books penetrated the end-of-century island, and, in the middle of our provincial illiteracy, her novels assembled in our name the radical puzzle of freedom.
Your health, Zoé. Vini, vidi, valdés.
November 23 2010