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Close, But No Cigar

May 2005

No longer exactly contraband in the US (see guest editor Esther Allen’s recent essay), Cuban authors still tweak authority and flirt with danger. Norberto Fuentes enters the inner life of the dictator in his irreverent “Autobiography of Fidel Castro”; the opposition journalist and poet Raúl Rivero considers tyranny, fidelity, and homeland; Francisco García González hops a truck packed with hitchhikers and fantasies; Leonardo Padura follows a disgraced journalist longing for the sensual Venus of Velázquez; José Manuel Prieto presents a socialist’s self-described study of frivolity; Sonia Bravo’s Fidelista looks back at her spartan lifetime of loyalty; and Eduardo del Llano’s young writer-protagonist discovers his unlikely name’s already in use as a pseudonym. Warmest thanks to guest co-editors Jacqueline Loss and Esther Whitfield, whose great expertise and years of dedication to the promotion of Cuban literature have contributed enormously to this issue. 

Doors, Windows, and the Office of Foreign Assets Control
By Esther Allen
Lex and I came to the strange realization that we, and Alejo Carpentier, had effectively been censored by the United States government.
From Chapter 1, “The Autobiography of Fidel Castro”
By Norberto Fuentes
This is the bucolic and archetypal Cuban landscape that I myself will destroy thirty years hence.
Translated from Spanish by Anna Kushner
By Raúl Rivero
Why do I have to die / not in my homeland
Translated from Spanish by Diana Alvarez-Amell & Jeffrey Gray
Family Picture in Havana
By Raúl Rivero
Mom and I are alone once againthe same as it was at the end of the forties.Alone, in a house that’s not our own,we tell each other last night’s dreams(in hers two old people are always cryingin…
Translated from Spanish by Diana Alvarez-Amell
On Tyranny
By Raúl Rivero
The one that’s out there in the street, out there in the country,the rough and vehement tyranny,that governs my life as a citizenthat one will passbecause it punishes my body,but does not have neither…
Translated from Spanish by Diana Alvarez-Amell
High Fidelity
By Raúl Rivero
They’ll be free from the gramophone’s pain,its torture from the rub and the needles.Chaste, they’ll not know the sinof singing a capella while hungrycaught between the farce and the…
Translated from Spanish by Diana Alvarez-Amell
By Raúl Rivero
Where I used to dwellin my autumn, with my ragsand I say dwelledbecause I felt aliveinside there as never before.Where I used to inhabittremulous, subtleand I was recognizedby my sinewsand my veinsand…
Translated from Spanish by Diana Alvarez-Amell
I Don’t Want Anyone Coming around to Save Me
By Raúl Rivero
I don’t want anyone coming around to save meSo, whoever is sending me those nice thoughts,those smug little messages,–take it elsewhere.Cut off the oxygen now.I don’t want to suffer…
Translated from Spanish by Diana Alvarez-Amell
You Don’t Have to Reach Heaven
By Francisco García González
“I keep my hands off my friend’s girl,” and under that, “I don’t have friends.”
Translated from Spanish by Mary G. Berg
Puerta de Alcalá
By Leonardo Padura
“Are you going to tell anyone we met?”
Translated from Spanish by Claudia Lightfoot
You’ve Never Seen Red Like This Before
By José Manuel Prieto
Perhaps this is the best moment to dispel any doubts the reader may have with regard to my intellectual seriousness and capacity (I doubt the list of authors included above had much effect).
Translated from Spanish by Esther Allen
I Am Spartan
By Sonia Bravo
…and she didn’t get that what socialism talks about is opportunity, not inborn talent;
Translated from Spanish by Nancy Festinger
You Know My Name
By Eduardo del Llano
They served me coffee. While I was drinking it, they were looking at me so fixedly that I began to feel uncomfortable.
Translated from Spanish by Cola Franzen