ISLAND STASIOLOGY / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

Of Militants and Queers

Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

…s they have tried to call it. They weren’t “five gray years.” Much less a “black decade.” The ‘70s were the splendor, the Cuban Revolution’s era of luxury. The ‘70s are and will be the crystal clear incarnation of the world totalitarian utopia, the twentieth century ideal. In those years every concept was an absolute, including the atrocious poverty of an island where, although no one died of hunger, food and civilized objects disappeared as if by magic (or were treasured in expectation of a luminous future of great tree-lined avenues where there wouldn’t be enough room for any of their proprietors). “Burn the ships,” was our poetic slogan. Aside from that, precisely in 1971 I was born. So please, no more faggoty metaphors of opaque colors. Because the ‘70s here were also a party, unspeakable, unrepeatable, and radiant.

In comparison with these times of decadent corruption and ideological stupidity, I imagine that as a true era. Where sincerity could be neatly murderous. Where everything overflowed the banks of the Revolution, from literature to money. Where Fidel was a Faith with no expiration date and paradise could be felt. I envy my parents’ impoverished existence, with their checked shirts and dresses and corduroy sweaters (they bought my cradle on the black market). Rarely in their history have the Cuban people been so close to a poetic and policed incarnation as they were in the ‘70s. We are that, nothing more. José Lezama Lima knew it. So he remained quiet. Not from fear (at that point he lived more in bitterness than in panic), but as a messiah, as a mastermind.

And The Fat Man from Trocadero [Lezama Lima] discovered himself living counterculturally his own fabrication. Never again would there be in Cuba any frustration of political essence (nor aesthetic nor of any other kind of essence). Nor would there be reserves of any royalty. Everything was an invisible evaporation (reality swept by the olive-green logo of a libertarian Oppiano*). The baroque reached its end out of excess gravity in the island of micro-brigades. Every dramatic conflict was superfluous and had to be resolved through the established channels. Every desire was cauterized by the playful discourse of the leader (in the 70s Fidel mourned martyrs the same way he made jokes from his dais/court). Jose Lezama Lima shut up, also a liar. He forgot to say, face to face with a homophobic state that yes, he was a fag (and that Paradise, in fact, had no place within historic materialism; in many senses this tome is the Anti-Bible and a Contra-Utopia).

Whoever ignores the truth of his own body, could easily sell himself to the enemies of the homeland given the case of an invasion (and no one laugh, damn it: the invasion is still imminent to this day). That is why State Security brands him as a diversionist** in a pdf, for not having the will to throw himself in front of the Revolution’s crazy cart. For his elusive elan. For being town gossip (they proved it to him with recordings so that he wouldn’t claim innocence in the middle of the desert). For being such a loving Cuban and for hoarding so many dirty little family secrets every time he would propose sex to a pupil, maybe even to a pupil infiltrated by the G2: hence that they would scan his unpublished manuscripts before the scanner (and in this our current National Literature Awards are the primary suspects of such leak, our lezama-gate or maybe wiki-lima).

What better temple than the Mecca of Cuban culture to make love to the political police. The National Library was the spot by excellence, clitoral axis between the marble testicles of the MINFAR-MININT and the turgid phallus of Revolution Square. The den of so many notable bookworms had to be the marked site. There, the mummy Lezama Lima stopped being a contemporary writer, while still alive. He deserved it. Silence gives consent. Communism was an aspirin the size of the sun, said, back then, the pamphlet’s newest poets, and it didn’t make sense to hide our emphysemas in an imaginary hole in Centro Habana (the militia marched in front of Trocadero 162, low, and the Master of Origins complained that they did not let him enjoy his nap, while letters from abroad reached him already open: precisely to him, who had attempted the Mail Reform of Cuba during the ephemeral euphoria of 1959).

Why hasn’t anyone spoken of this brochure before? Had his colleagues forgotten? Aren’t there any survivors of the 70’s who worked at the National Library? No. There we have the fundamental problem of cuban-sophy. There are no survivors, there are rather accomplices of our little horror of a scam. Jails, exiles, microphones, suicides. Only the Security organs have a memory (although they are forbidden to narrate). Our people were born literally and literary-ly yesterday. I come to my desperation as a writer through this point: I cannot express my joy of knowing ourselves so free in terms of nation. Without teachers or martyrs. Without any more tradition than the reiterative treason. Alone, spelling out the imprisoned prose of a little brochure of the DSE (Department of State Security) where all of our future literature fits, all of Orwell’s Orbit with rum and neighborhood laughter, plus the indispensable brothel penises in exchange for a couple of bucks. We are that, nothing more. The militia won, the hetero dogma (not the heterodoxy). José Lezama Lima found out too late. That’s why he remained quiet. Not because he was a fag (by that time he was already more virginized than insulted), but for mercy towards himself: any word would be used against him.

I cannot place an end period without declaring that, in full faculty of my mental possessions, I find agreeable to declare that from being so loquacious I have become a little crazy. So that I don’t know which reminiscences or resonances forced me to type and publish this post immediately. Perhaps I have only pretended to get ahead of the officials who tend to the CASE OLPL. Perhaps it is only the shame of having being right (or of having lost my mind as a result of the dissimilar despotisms since 1971 and until today). Perhaps it is on…

Translator’s notes:
*Oppiano Licario is the title of one of José Lezama Lima’s books.
**Ideological Diversionism: Anti-revolutionary propaganda in the form of newspapers, radio, music, movies, etc. Cuban government claims this was the weapon of the enemy and of anti-revolutionaries on the island.

Translated by: Claudia D.

June 11 2011

#TWITTHELP / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo


Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

The future is so distant. Such a lie that we are going to live it. Such a panic. Such a coward. That. It’s better to inhabit it a bit in writing just now, when no one can see or hear us at the level of the Cuban dark morning hours. Better the sense than the experience. Better the rethoric than the repression. Both so real. So, such. Better to begin with a random date. The First of July of 2011 for example. Friday, just like every day you can think of in which I have dared to open my eyes and pronounce the words: “I am here and now, I am true, I am a hundred, death brothers us and betters us, never again will anything bad happen to us (again), come.”

There’s a thing that kills Cuba. It doesn’t kill the government or the people or any of those concrete words that are gobs of spit in the mouths of the demagogues by turn (or eternal). It kills Cuba, I said. There’s a thing that kills the Cuba that is the poetic expression of what we could never put a name to. That thing is us, postponing our biographies, refusing to protagonize, overdying to the alien time of another unknown, atrocious generation.

The nation no longer produces a nation. Any of us plays a role for some time, pretends to play the part of the prop. Then gets tired, with reason. They collimate him, without a reason. Then he adapts or leaves. Applause. It’s called growing up. Maturing. Being others. It is the Darwinian democracy of the self-preservation instinct. It is also the death of the very idea of a revolution, be it internal or public.

From so much preserving, we no longer preserve anything. Except the imported objects of our childhood, of that other exile that awaits us in a short while, no longer. On Fridays all that material emerges like a volcano of memories. Sad, cooled lava. A murmur in the uncivil heart. The first day of a month precipitates killing each other. And July could very well be the anonymous name of our last month. Who will talk about us after we so intensely resist talking about ourselves?

Unknown. Bedroom citizens. Humiliated before the previous History. Avoiding the siren of the political patrol or the touch of a security officer’s knuckles. Zigzagging. So handicapped, so precious, so contemporary. I would have liked to know the Cubans of my generation. But it was not possible. They do not exist. They did not hug me. Crazies. They did not soak in my sweat. I did not captivate them with my voice. They did not smell my smell, so repetitive. I did not see them around, in any post-habanera corner such as, for example, that of 23 and 12, right in the center of Vedado, Cuba, America. In half a century or half a millennium the only thing spontaneous has been the lack of spontaneity.

Today I found out that the waves of nonsense turn to burst against the mental wall of our malecón. I hear a hashtag that one cannot pronounce out loud, twitthab. I myself recycle it and spread it into the infinite and diffuse it into the infinitesimal. Who spoke? Where does it come from, that social rebelliousness of looking at each other face to face? Who is responsible before the cameras and microphones of the press or before the prejudicial interrogation? Which official will be the first to exert physical or labor violence? It was nice. Now, enough. It’s not necessary to stretch tedium like chewing gum until two Fridays after. Today is the last Friday. Time ran out. For a day we were free and lucid and loquacious and playful. Today the dark forces will begin with their effective work of disintegration; a Creole Chernobyl with as many victims as it is necessary, in a prophylactic domino effect that in Cuba we call “governance.”

It was already the first of July, in our visionary imagination. It was already Friday again, like today. We already saw each other with t-shirts and printed avatars, redefining the fossil map of our society without blue that flies. We already projected ourselves in public with the candor of buccaneers and with pizzas in our national currency. We already filmed our neorealism so expressive in a wave of tweets. We were already accused of being puppets or puppeteers. There are already names (that is, the harm is done). We were already unable to explain ourselves (because being able to explain oneself is the only mistake). We already kept our clothes on and did not dare to undress among perfect strangers, wild animals that frolic like pups and then escape so as to not fail. We didn’t even stop traffic. Yet again we made fools of ourselves as a world premiere.

I am sorry. I have the lead because of my absolute state of temper (read, my inconsolable state of desperation). There will be no #twitthab in Havana. The city doesn’t deserve so much either. This epitaph is a way of protecting a priori the victims of this marvelous maneuver that condemns me to not lose all hope. It wasn’t now. It isn’t now. It won’t be now. It’s ok; remain calm. We are so nervous. We are so close.  So there. But it is necessary to wait. A bit. One more bit. Pretend. We are almost out of breath. Almost. Remain alert about me. Any of these Fridays it will be I, myself, who will suddenly raise the alarm.

Translated by: Claudia D.

June 17 2011