Last week I participated in an exceptional experience. For two days I spoke on camera for the fictionalized documentary Trocadero 162, Bajos, by director Tomas Piard, about the last years of Jose Lezama Lima: his final ostracism when the doors on the island were closed to him; his resistance to the Cuban vacuum, until he died in August 1976; the black hole that still today swallows his writing, not only among the lay public but also among academics on the island (for the Cuban diaspora Lezama a rare fossil, but at least educational programs are appearing).
I shared the movie set with a history student and a young professor from the Faculty of Arts and Letters, both from the University of Havana. I spoke on tape with two people who relished, face to face, the friendship, resignation, laughter, and ultimately the orphanhood of the late Lezama Lima: that unfinished poet of Oppiano Licario and the narrator of the unpublished Fragments of His Iman; that shadow so Piñera-like that he swam in his sleep, both fists clenched (Virgilio vomited his fear, but Lezama Lima swallowed his).
This most recent production by Tomas Piard is now being edited at the Faculty of the Art of Media Studies, and will debut on Sunday, 19 December 2010, Lezama Lima’s hundredth birthday. I engaged in and we engaged in critical discussions during hours and hours of shooting. The producer did not pay us for our effort. And now, suddenly, I am perplexed to learn that not one of the scenes of Trocadero 162, Bajos will feature my face or my voice. The Cuban State erases again, for political prudery, the insignificant and magnificent traces of Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo (like a King Midas, everything I touch melts into horror).
Someone, working in secret from the highest level in the Ministry of Culture, has made the most disrespectful decision: not a single frame shall escape from the censoring scissors of the despot’s accomplices, as our nomenklatura of lies spits its sterility on the unpeaceful memory of Jose Lezama Lima. We repeat the crime of butchering Cuban writers. Today is still yesterday. We stigmatize as a form of occupational therapy. The universe changes but the censors do not change: they remain employed thanks to this infantilism of the left that invents enemies to survive. If this happens with such self-assurance in November of 2010, I don’t even want to imagine in what kind of “bed of roses” Lezama Lima died in the seventies of the last century.
I don’t know if, in a country that is more of a country, someone would have to resign for such an atrocity (I, at least, do not resign my task of continuing to be one of those in my generation to push the boundaries of prose). I don’t know whether to nail a proclamation on the door of each ministry, or to give these new Pavons — our Cuban Torquemadas — the stylistic benefit of my forgiveness. My heart aches as an orphaned child of Tomas Piard, a good and universal Cuban whom the provincial brutes mock since he began his career as an amateur director. I regret that 2011 already promises not just another Five Grey Years, but Fifty Black Years. I am happy only for the transparency of this grotesque gesture with which the powers-that-be put in black-and-white their utter disdain for everything with the least whiff of intellect (State Security demonstrates to the entire world their complete stupidity).
They know full well that no Tom, Dick or Harry — and much less a winner of the National Literature Prize — will protest (Lezama himself did not protest). All vice-ministers are well aware that this shameful bullying will scare away my supporters, through mere instinct for self-preservation (every reader for himself). They assume I’ll end up more lonesome than a suicide, as this is the formula of “triumphant hatred” in the socialist system: With all and for the mediocrity of all (except Abel Prieto, Minister of Culture whom I exempt from reading this open letter to the world: his position allows him to manage the budgets of blame, but never the pride of culture).
Faced with the challenge of beauty and truth, our pre-posthumous country prefers to pass while its gatekeepers still don’t dare to shift even a millimeter. To be born here becomes an unspeakable fiasco. Me, I don’t know how to say it: Revolution.
For my part, I no longer expect anything, not even absence. Cuba will be free. I never was.