The Best Novel by Reinaldo Arenas and an Anthology on the ’11J’ Protests Among Cuban Books of July

Covers of ’The Hallucinating World’, by Reinaldo Arenas, ’Oriental Motifs’, by Vasili Rozanov and the ’Cross Correspondence’ between Casal and Moreau. (Collage)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Xavier Carbonell, Salamanca, July 30, 2023 — After the success in bookstores of Antes que anochezca [Before Night Falls], the heterodox autobiography of Reinaldo Arenas reissued in 2022, Tusquets offers readers El mundo alucinante [The Amazing] World, considered by critics as the best Cuban novel The deranged memoirs of the Mexican friar Servando Teresa de Mier, exiled and misunderstood, were written as an “adventure” story by a 23-year-old Arenas.

Conversations with Bolívar and the poet Heredia, nods to Lezama and multiple trips and imprisonments – one of them in the gloomy Havana prison of La Cabaña – fuel the adventures of Fray Servando, who lived between the 18th and 19th centuries. In the friar’s vocation of heresy and the nonconformity, Arenas is plotting his own youthful portrait and, somehow, predicts the no less amazing life that awaited him.

The epistolary exchange between the Cuban poet Julián del Casal and his “much idolized teacher,” the painter Gustave Moreau, was published this month by the Spanish publishing house Linkgua. Correspondencia cruzada [Crossed correspondence] accounts for the idolatry of Casal by the French artist, to whom he dedicated several poetic compositions collected in Mi museo ideal  [My Ideal Museum]. The letters were translated by the Parisian academic Dominique Fernandez and the Cuban Roger Herrera, deputy director of the Paris Academy of Fine Arts.

Havana professor Jorge Brioso examines from philosophy, in Al modo de Narciso (Casa Vacía) [In the Mode of Narcissus], the work of various authors – Homer, Poe, Mallarmé, Borges – and visual artists. “One recommends to the reader that, abandoning the calculating reason, they let themselves be carried away by the force of Brioso’s mythical prose and accompany him in his revelations,” says Javier Gomá in the back cover note.

In translation by Jorge Ferrer, Casa Vacía also publishes Motivos orientales [Eastern Motives], by the Russian critic and philosopher Vasili Rozánov. For Ferrer, the writer is “a great reactionary, a graphomaniac, a man straddling two worlds and running at a gallop towards the one he wanted to invent.” As for the book, he assures that it is composed “with the most delusional carpentry of delirious Russia.”

Martí, uno y muchos a un tiempo (Verbum) [Martí, one and many at a time ], by Leonardo Depestre Catony, brings together several articles that aspire to form a “journalistic biography” of the Cuban national hero. It also deals, according to the editorial presentation, with other aspects of Martí’s life, “traditionally controversial and previously ignored.”

The story of a writer during the Special Period is the plot of Límites y escombros, [Limits and ruins], a novel by Arturo Arango. With his notes, the protagonist intends “to not forget and to understand what we are experiencing.”

Cuba 11J: Perspectivas contrahegemónicas de las protestas sociales ( [Cuba 11J: Counter-hegemonic perspectives of social protests ], an anthology by historian Alexander Hall on the demonstrations of 11 July 2021. A multiplicity of signatures – of very diverse ideological signs – explores “the motivations of so many Cubans who screamed for freedom.” Among the participants are Alina Bárbara López, Roberto Zurbano, Ailyn Torres Santana, Julio Antonio Fernández Estrada and Julio César Guanche.


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