Cuba is a country which has been narrated to the maximum. The poems, the essays, and the narratives have rummaged down to the core to bring out the best and worst of a nation, which in the process of trying to see itself has tried to be the belly of the world. Javier Negrin, a thirty year old who now lives in Isle of Pines has just awarded us with one of those rare jewels, a proposition so we do not lose ourselves. It is a book with five short stories, narrated at the velocity in which the youth lives, without make-up and without pretensions.
Even more, however, it is a book which is full of crude realism, the adoptive child of Charles Bukovsky and Pedro Juan Gutierrez. It is admired as a fiction, armed such as this one, which does not intend to go beyond its literary ancestors. YOTUEL, as a semantic game in the desperation of individuality, takes a chance on a documentary. It is the imagination which is seen as part of sub-world by any adolescent with a scholarship for second level grade school in any part of Cuba.
The five stories are threaded together through the incentive of some students who are careless, and abandoned by their parents in the midst of a socialist inferno which is the reality of the rural scholarships, where each individual, under the supposed Marti-idea of complementing Study-Work, cease being innocent when they discover a world of gangs, sexual and physical abuse, and psychological pressure in which they must establish themselves as people. But I swear that neither Negrin nor his characters say any of this.
This only appears in my grateful reader mind. A violation, or nearly- a group of hungry people- Tom Sawyer style or very near the story of “No Rest During That Summer” by Jose Manuel Prieto, who were surprised when they were stealing food which the granters of the scholarships were hiding from them. A fictional incest between the overprotective brother and his sister, an accident under the appearance of negligence, a love story- because if a book does not have a good love story then “it is crap”, as The Intellectual says about life, one of the characters of that book which has only 500 copies printed, which will get lost in the run down libraries of the province, despite the efforts of Ancoras Editions, or of the “Saiz Brothers” Association in Isle of Pines.
Attending the presentation of YOTUEL was one of the best things that happened to me during the past Festivities of May. To relive the scholarships without the mandate of the literary generation of the 80′s, which the functionary-writer Abel Prieto is part of, as is the star-writer Senel Paz or the writer’s-writer Abilio Estevez, under the hand of the Placetas native Javier Negrin Ruiz, is quite a luck. This is a book which is very similar to the Testimony, that orphaned son of Cuban literature. The subject of scholarships in Cuba, which swarmed in areas like Jaguey Grande, Isle of Pines, and Zola, Matanzas, as well as Camaguey or San Andres in Holguin is something which History, Testimony, or Journalism should owe us for the future, when we become an adult nation. The children who traveled from Guantanamo to pick up their grapefruits in Gerona, or to prune oranges in the center of the country, were not better or worse. They were the youths who went off to kill and die in Africa, who left their bodies down in the Florida Straits or that awoke one day without the Berlin Wall. More than an idyllic encounter between little pioneers who loved their country, the “rural schools” were one of those infernos which many try to bury, and YOTUEL by Nergrin Ruiz revives it in halves, and that’s something to be grateful for. Everyone is invited to read.
Translator: Raul G.
14 May 2012