Cabrera Infante, Guillermo (Contemporary Literary Criticism)
Guillermo Cabrera Infante 1929–
(Has also written under pseudonym of G. Cain) Cuban-born novelist, short story writer, essayist, critic, sketch writer, journalist, and translator.
The following entry presents an overview of Cabrera Infante's career through 1996. For further information on his life and works, see CLC, Volumes 5, 25, and 45.
Cabrera Infante is a Cuban-born writer noted for his wordplay, his use of humor and sexual imagery, and his opposition to the Communist regime that took power in Cuba in 1959. Initially a supporter of Fidel Castro's revolution and an official of the regime, Cabrera Infante left Cuba in 1965. Two years later he published Tres tristes tigres (1967; Three Trapped Tigers) his most critically acclaimed work. Like most of Cabrera Infante's fiction, the novel has a setting in pre-revolutionary Cuba, and makes extensive use of humorous and erotic wordplay. Cabrera Infante began his writing career as a film reviewer in the 1950s and continues to write essays, sketches, and nonfiction ranging from the whimsical to the somber.
The son of a journalist, Cabrera Infante grew up in Cuba during the 1930s and 1940s. He attended the University of Havana, and graduated in 1956. By that time he had already begun to publish film reviews under the pseudonym G. Cain, a shortened version of his own name. An opponent of Cuba's dictator, Fulgencio Batista, Cabrera Infante spent a brief period in prison for using "English profanities" in a short story published in the literary journal Bohemia. He later supported the Castro revolution against Batista. After the new government took power in 1959, Cabrera Infante received a post on the Bureau of Cultural Affairs, and became director of the journal Lunes de Revolución. In 1961 Castro censored a film by Cabrera Infante's brother depicting Havana's night life during the Batista era and Cabrera Infante's revolutionary fervor cooled. He left Cuba for a diplomatic assignment in Belgium in 1965, and did not return. At about the same time, Cabrera Infante won Spain's Biblioteca Breva Prize for an unfinished novel that would be published, in greatly changed form, as Three Trapped Tigers in 1967. Cabrera Infante, who became a naturalized British citizen, participated in the translation of several of his works, and in 1986 published his first book written in English, Holy Smoke. Most of his work, however, has maintained its Cuban focus.
In 1993 he produced Mea Cuba, a collection of essays and other short fiction pieces on the subject of his homeland. In the same year he presented for the first time in English a collection of short stories called Writes of Passage that he had published in Havana three decades earlier.
Cabrera Infante's most well-known work is the novel Three Trapped Tigers, which he described to Rita Guibert in 1973 as "a joke lasting about five hundred pages." Written in the Cuban Spanish vernacular as it is spoken on the streets of Havana, the book is a narrative of the city's night life in the pre-Castro era. It is a tale filled with puns, double entendre, and other forms of wordplay, often humorous and sexual in nature. Cabrera Infante's second novel, La Habana para un infante difunto (1979; Infante's Inferno) also employed linguistic acrobatics, erotic themes, and a semi-autobiographical tale of a youth's initiation into sexual mysteries. Cabrera Infante has published several short-story collections in Spanish and English, as well as a number of nonfiction works. Among the latter are Un oficio del siglo XX (1963; A Twentieth-Century Job), a book of film reviews; Vista del amanecer en el trópico (1974; A View of Dawn in the Tropics), a collection of sketches that chronicles the history of repression in Cuba; and Holy Smoke (1986), a lighthearted look at the history of the cigar. Among his most notable works in the 1990s was Mea Cuba (1993), a collection of essays, criticism, and letters.
The rich linguistic material in Three Trapped Tigers made it a success with reviewers. Cabrera Infante's portrayal of a nighttime world in the novel earned comparisons to the "Nighttown" episode of James Joyce's Ulysses, and his whimsical use of language invited references not only to Joyce, but to Lewis Carroll. Cabrera Infante's continued reliance on intricate puns in his later work has subjected him to charges of literary indulgence. Alma Guillermoprieto, reviewing Mea Cuba, referred to the author as a "bombastic punster"; and Richard Eder, in a review of the same work, observed that Cabrera Infante's penchant for wordplay "energizes him, perhaps, but it depletes the reader." As one who has written in English and translated several of his works into that language, Cabrera Infante has been likened to Josef Conrad and Vladimir Nabokov, and has often been cited for his facility with a language not his own. His outspoken opposition to the Castro regime has invited equal helpings of praise and blame, and even those not overtly sympathetic to the regime have faulted Cabrera Infante for his tendency to use his writings as a platform for his political views.
Así en la paz como en la guerra [In Peace as in War] (short stories) 1960
∗Un oficio del siglo XX [A Twentieth-Century Job] (criticism) 1963
Tres tristes tigres [Three Trapped Tigers] (novel) 1967
Vista del amanecer en el trópico [A View of Dawn in the Tropics] (sketches) 1974
Exorcismos de esti(l)o [Exorcizing a Sty(le)] (prose) 1976
Arcadia todas las noches (criticism) 1978
La Habana para un infante difunto [Infante's Inferno] (novel) 1979
Holy Smoke: Anatomy of a Vice (nonfiction) 1986
Mea Cuba (essays, criticism, and letters) 1993
†Writes of Passage (short stories) 1993
Delito por bailar el chachachá (novellas) 1996
∗Under pseudonym G. Cain. English edition published 1992.
†First published in Havana in 1960.
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SOURCE: "The Use of Jokes in Cabrera Infante's Tres Tristes Tigres [Three Trapped Tigers]," in Latin American Literary Review, Vol. V, No. 9, Fall/Winter, 1976, pp. 14-21.
[In the following essay, Resnick explores themes of humor and sexuality in Tres tristes tigres.]
Cabrera Infante's Tres Tristes Tigres [Three Trapped Tigers] continually underlines the interrelation of humor, language and sexuality. The humor in this novel is immediately evident to any reader, and has received some attention in several critical studies, most of which tend to emphasize its linguistic aspects. One article discusses the problems of translating not only the jokes, puns, and anagrams but the whole atmosphere of the novel. Another posits the text as a novel about language and literature in which verbal games serve to point out, among other things, an underlying sexual obsession in which masturbation is a recurrent theme. A third critic suggests the importance of masturbation in its relation to the verbal games in Tres Tristes Tigres but does not develop the idea further. To my knowledge, the only study to attempt an analysis of the humor in its relation to the subconscious or to sexual motifs is that of José Sánchez Boudy, but it is often inaccurate, myopic and unsatisfactory. A few examples will show why this is so.
In a section entitled "Meanings of importance for the understanding...
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SOURCE: "Holy Smoke: Anatomy of a Vice," in World Literature Today, Vol. 61, No. 4, Autumn, 1978, pp. 590-93.
[In the following essay, Nelson explores Cabrera Infante's application of a "menippean" form of satire in Holy Smoke.]
An ongoing controversy has been brewing regarding Guillermo Cabrera Infante's outrageously inventive and irreverent writing, from Un oficio del siglo XX (A Twentieth-Century Job; 1963) up to the present, as to whether a given work is an autobiography, a novel, a satire, a collection of fragments, or just a book. With the publication of Holy Smoke, a humorous narrative account of the history of tobacco and cigar-smoking and their presence in popular culture, Cabrera Infante guarantees himself a place in the Menippean mainstream along with such venerable offbeat authors as Petronius, Burton, Sterne, and Carroll. The menippea is impossible to define neatly or to categorize—in this respect it is like a cigar's vitola—but it has a decidedly unique and unmistakably oxymoronic and dialogic thrust. We can also say with certainty that the menippea or anatomy tends toward parody and burlesque in tone, a philosophical or intellectual posture in theme, and the encyclopedic accumulation of fact and erudition in form. Menippean satire is always innovative, but there are certain recurring patterns that reflect an attitude and approach to literature, and to the...
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SOURCE: "Mirrors and Metamorphosis: Lewis Carroll's Presence in Tres tristes tigres," in Hispania, Vol 62, No. 3, May-September, 1979, pp. 297-303.
[In the following essay, Siemens discusses Cabrera Infante's use of literary devices in Tres Tristes Tigres that are similar to those employed by Lewis Carroll in Alice in Wonderland.]
In an interview with Emir Rodriguez Monegal, Guillermo Cabrera Infante indicates the way in which he has incorporated subtle allusions to the works of Lewis Carroll into Tres tristes tigres: "Hay un momento en Tres tristes tigres, en el final, en 'Bachata,' en que Cué y Silvestre contemplan una tempestad eléctrica tropical y Silvestre—que es el que se supone que sea mi alter ego en el libro—dice que parece un homenaje a un 4 de julio olvidado…. Por supuesto … que el 4 de julio de 1862 fue cuando Lewis Carroll, cuando el reverendo Dodgson … se fue de picnic con [Alicia] por el río Oxford." In recent Cuban prose fiction the name of the game is play itself, and when this comes to mean specifically word play it is not surprising that the name of Lewis Carroll should crop up in some significant context. Cabrera Infante has stated, in fact, "Tengo una enorme admiración por Lewis Carroll. Tanto que creo que es el verdadero iniciador de la literatura moderna como la conocemos hoy dia."
The tone of his novel is...
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SOURCE: "A Secret Idiom: The Grammar and Role of Language in Tres tristes tigres," in Latin American Literary Review, Vol. VIII, No. 16, Spring-Summer, 1980, pp. 96-117.
[In the following essay, Merrim examines the rhetorical forms and figures of speech employed by Cabrera Infante in Tres tristes tigres.]
Tú, que me lees, ¿estás serguro de
entender mi lenguaje?
"La biblioteca de Babel"
Since even before entering the text proper, the reader of Tres tristes tigres [Three Trapped Tigers] is warned (in the "Advertencia") that the whole novel is written in an "idioma secreto," the nocturnal jargon of Havana, it comes as no surprise to find critics saying that "a new language is created in the space of the text itself." This kind of statement, however, tells us nothing in particular: all literary works create private languages; a text is as much a linguistic as a fictional universe. Instead, we should ask what is different and "secret" about the language of Tres tristes tigres? How does it...
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SOURCE: "Translating Infante's Inferno," in Substance, Vol. XIII, No. 1, 1984, pp. 85-94.
[In the following essay, Levine describes the difficulties of translating Cabrera Infante's linguistically complex work from Spanish to English.]
A romantic is usually afraid, isn't he, in case reality doesn't come up to expectations.
—Graham Greene, Our Man in Havana
I. Word Play
"Faithful poetic translation is an exercise of parallel reveries in two languages," it has been said. My collaboration with the Cuban (and now British) writer Guillermo Cabrera Infante as his faithfully unfaithful translator (how else can one translate traduttore traditore?) started out as an exercise of parallel repartees, reparteasing one another in English and Spanish, in a two-faced monologue of compulsive punsters. It all began in London where Cabrera Infante was in the throes of destroying Tres tristes tigres (1965) with his British collaborator in order to create a young Frankenstein, Three Trapped Tigers (1971), a version more than a translation or—as all translations are—another book. The English version of the Joyceful recreation of spoken Havanese had to be written, spoken rather, in American English, an idiom full of sounds more in tune with...
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SOURCE: "Strategies for Reader Participation in the Works of Cortázar, Cabrera Infante and Vargas Llosa," in Latin American Literary Review, Vol. XIII, No. 26, July-December, 1985, pp. 25-28.]
[In the following excerpt, taken from an essay comparing Cabrera Infante's works with those of two other well-known Latin American authors, Hazera investigates Cabrera Infante's use of "fragmentary structures".]
Like Cortázar, Cabrera Infante resorts to a fragmentary structure to provoke reader participation. While Hopscotch is a collage of written texts, Three Trapped Tigers is a collage of spoken texts. Unlike Cortázar, who orients the reader in the arrangement of the parts by providing a table of instructions, Cabrera Infante guides the reader by maintaining the same title, the same narrative point of view, and the same mode of speech in all sections of the novel dealing with a given subject. For instance, all sections entitled "I Heard Her Sing" deal with Códac's chronological narrative of Estrella Rodriguez, the nightclub singer. These sections can easily be extracted from the novel to form a short story. The psychiatric sessions are consecutively numbered and may also be put together to form a coherent narrative sequence. Though both "I Heard Her Sing" and the numbered psychiatric sessions are dispersed throughout the work, the point of view and mode of speech facilitate identification of...
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SOURCE: "The Mind's Isle: An Introduction to Cabrera Infante," in World Literature Today, Vol. 61, No. 4, Autumn, 1987, p. 512.]
[In the following essay, Davis offers a short introduction to the study of Cabrera Infante's work with reference to several other writers, most notably James Joyce.]
As the twentieth century draws to an uneasy close, we can begin to consider the novels, poems, movies, music, architecture, and celebrations that are its artifacts, and we are immediately struck by the persistence of memory (to steal a phrase from Dalí). As our understanding of history has become fainter, our dependence upon interior history, memory, has grown more obsessive. [Cabrera Infante] might be called the Bach of memory, and each of his texts adds variations to the central fugue. Borges, in a poem that re-creates the house of his childhood ("Androgué"), calls memory the fourth dimension, and it is into this realm that we travel with Cabrera Infante.
For those of us born into English, it is appropriate to consider Cabrera Infante in light of the prose of James Joyce. Indeed, there has been in this century a fascinating correspondence between the history, the exploration of language, and the sheer exuberance of imagination in Ireland and in Latin America. Cabrera Infante has reversed the order of Joyce's texts. He published his own Finnegans Wake in his first major novel, Tres...
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SOURCE: "Nabokov/Cabrera Infante: True Imaginary Lies," in World Literature Today, Vol. 61, No. 4, Autumn, 1987, pp. 559-67.
[In the following essay, Oviedo explores "connections and convergences" between Cabrera Infante's work and that of Vladimir Nabokov.]
Around 1970, in the prologue to his collection of essays Extraterritorial, George Steiner recognized that the language revolution that immediately preceded and followed World War I—particularly in Central Europe—had produced among certain contemporary writers a phenomenon which he called unhousedness, a term we could paraphrase as "linguistic uprooting." Almost as if they had lost their sense of a center, these writers, to a greater or lesser degree, passed through various languages, making their relation to them a major theme of their works. Having fled the "maternal house" of their own language, they came to dwell precariously in an "international hotel" of languages containing many rooms, entrances, and exits. Steiner chose three authors—Nabokov, Borges, and Beckett—as models of this class of writer and pointed out that they were possibly "the three representative figures in the literature of exile—which is, perhaps, the main impulse of current literature." Moreover, he dedicated the first three essays of the volume to them, and the title of the collection was inspired by none other than Nabokov himself. Steiner concluded...
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SOURCE: A review of View of Dawn in the Tropics in Times Literary Supplement, No. 4477, January 20-26, 1989, p. 54.
[In the following review, Rankin highlights the poignant qualities of the tales in View of Dawn in the Tropics.]
View of Dawn in the Tropics is a brief and poignant history of Cuba, related in 117 sections. These vignettes, fables and snapshot descriptions vary in length from a paragraph to four pages, and their first lines are logged in the index as if they were prose poems. This post-modern technique of making a history from a mosaic of fragments has been employed by the Uruguayan Eduardo Galeano in his epic trilogy Memory of Fire, but in G. Cabrera Infante's hands the method is also reminiscent of the Extraordinary Tales collated by the Argentines, Borges and Bioy Casares. Here factual history is worn down into fictive myth; the clutter of names and dates and elaborate particularity have been polished away to leave emblematic figures such as "the black general", "the old soldier" and "the comandante", whose violent fates are laconically described.
Key to the book is the first word of the title. As one would expect from this pun-loving writer, "view" has several meanings. In the sense of "opinion", the exiled Cabrera Infante's view of his native land since Fidel Castro took power thirty years ago is clear: Cuba is a tyrannical dictatorship, a...
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SOURCE: A review of A Twentieth-Century Job, in Times Literary Supplement, No. 4640, March 6, 1992, p. 17.
[In the following review, King establishes the relevance of the film essays in A Twentieth-Century Job.]
Readers acquainted with Guillermo Cabrera Infante's major works—Three Trapped Tigers, Infante's Inferno, Holy Smoke—will be aware of his pervading interest in film. As a young man, he had a regular movie column in Cuba, first in the journal Carteles, 1954–60, and later in the short-lived but extremely lively magazine of the Revolution, Lunes de Revolución, 1959–60. The bulk of A Twentieth-Century Job (which first appeared in Spanish in 1963) is made up of film criticism for those years, signed with the pseudonym G. Cain (G, CAbrera INfante). These pages are framed by the comments of another narrator who is, supposedly, the editor and annotator of the collected works and who criticizes and engages with his friend Cain. Alter egos or, as Cabrera Infante would have it, alter egotists.
The fictional frame allows Cabrera Infante the punster plenty of scope. Just the title of the book and the pseudonym of the author take us into a world teeming with allusions: Cain of biblical fame, East of Eden, Citizen Kane, sugar-cane (he's a Cuban after all, although he has lived in Britain for nearly thirty years). Film criticism is...
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SOURCE: A review of A Twentieth-Century Job, in Los Angeles Times Book Review, September 20, 1992, p. 15.
[In the following review, Elliott takes exception to aspects of A Twentieth-Century Job, but commends the book as a rare collection of reviews that one can read "in large gulps."]
American film reviewing has widely become a fandango of fools, of wagging thumbs and swaggering blurbs. Guillermo Cabrera Infante's A Twentieth-Century Job arrives like a bottle tossed into the ocean of film 30 years ago, one with a message for anyone not taking their film pleasures seriously: Wake up, stupid.
This bracingly smart ensemble of reviews is from the Cuban novelist who since the 1960s has lived in London in voluntary exile from the land of The Beard. As a young intellectual, Infante, now 63, planted this garden of barbed flowers during the waning Batista era, and then briefly during the ruddy dawn of Castro. His hopes for a free cinema died quickly.
A Groucho Marxist, funny and impudent, Infante brought to these pieces the vervy bravura of an Otis Ferguson, François Truffaut, Dwight Macdonald or Pauline Kael. His reviews have a slash and scintillation that are grounded in thought. Though at moments preening or purple-prolix, Cabrera was a master of swift delight and demolition. Of the latter, savor his sinking of wooden, water-logged Howard Keel in...
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SOURCE: A review of Mea Cuba, in World Literature Today, Vol. 67, No. 2, Spring, 1993, pp. 342-43.
[In the following review, Corral criticizes Cabrera Infante's penchant for wordplay, as well as his attacks on Castro's system and other intellectuals.]
Guillermo Cabrera Infante, ever the punster, has gathered here articles, essays, notes, speeches, and letters published in various international newspapers, magazines, and literary journals. They cover the period 1968–1992 yet do not include or represent all his cultural or political writings. Divided into three sections—"A propósito" (on his role in Cuban culture), "Vidas para leerlas" (purportedly biographies of Cuban authors), and "Vida única" (on Cuban and other topics)—the book is really a passionate, albeit flawed biographical assessment of Cuban cultural politics since the midsixties. Inimitable in style, obviously self-revealing, full of information, insight and gossip, hilariously combative, Mea Cuba may well become a definitive view of one side of the t(r)opic that Cuba has become.
When this book was published in mid-November 1992, Juan Goytisolo praised it in the Spanish press as an ironic homage to Fidel Castro, the "real" father of all Cubans, whether they be in Cuba, the cemetery, prison, or exile. This sort of obsession, akin to arguing that José Marti might be the only true Cuban-American, is the...
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SOURCE: A review of Writes of Passage, in Times Literary Supplement, No. 4725, October 22, 1993, p. 22.
[In the following review, Eaves critiques Writes of Passage, a translation of a story collection first published in Cuba in 1960, as "repackaging."]
"Language is my business", writes G. Cabrera Infante in an explanatory epilogue to this, his first book of short stories, published in Havana in 1960 but hitherto unavailable in Britain. The Chandleresque pose may be safely assumed to be ironic: language, as far as Batista's secret police were concerned in 1952, when the literary journal Bohemia carried a short story called "A Ballad of Bullets and Bull's Eyes", is also trouble; and the author's description of his detention inside El Principé Castle prison, for publishing a fiction peppered with "English profanities", is chilling. Banged up with a group of veteran rebel detainees, Infante finds his story—about a botched assassination attempt—has been taken literally by the convicts who upbraid him for its inaccuracies: "You don't know what you're talking about, man. That's not how you go about knocking off the opposition."
The "Ballad' itself seems almost unremarkable, as do many suppressed literary texts after the context of suppression has changed. A posse of political thugs sets up a routine murder which goes wrong when an innocent man is shot. Their only...
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SOURCE: A review of Mea Cuba, in Los Angeles Times Book Review, November 27, 1994, p. 3.
[In the following review, Eder cites weaknesses that blunt the impact of Mea Cuba, a book he calls "powerful at times."]
For the first two years after Fidel Castro's triumphant entry into Havana, Cuba's artistic and literary life bubbled vigorously. It had not really been stagnant under Fulgencio Batista, who took no interest in what artists did unless they engaged in political resistance; nevertheless, the dictator's overthrow released an exuberant energy.
It was an energy of the left, of course, since that was where most writers, painters, musicians and filmmakers placed themselves anyway. It was also libertarian, ungovernable and unrestrained. Its voice was found most particularly in "Lunes de Revolucion," the weekly literary supplement of the newspaper Revolution, whose director, Carlos Franqui, embodied the violent idealism of the revolution's first years.
In its brief life, Lunes was a meteor, and by far the most vital literary publication in Latin America. Its editor, a young novelist, critic and hopeless Hollywood buff, thought of himself as an "anarcho-Surrealist." That amounts to cultural gourmandizing; the equivalent of sitting through a triple feature with chocolate peanuts as well as popcorn and butter.
It took less than two years...
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SOURCE: A review of Mea Cuba, in New York Times Book Review, Vol. CXLIV, No. 49,893, November 27, 1994, p. 9.
[In the following review, Guillermoprieto commends Cabrera Infante's profiles of several gay Cuban poets who became victims of the Castro regime, but also notes his "endless petty settling of accounts."]
Those who are familiar with the Cuban novelist and essayist Guillermo Cabrera Infante (his best-known work in this country is the novel Three Trapped Tigers) will be pleased to find him in full form in this collection of essays: irritable and irreverent, generous and catty, indignant and wistful and harsh, and of course—of curse! a desperate reader might wail—endlessly punning. The titles of the sections and essays are a fair representation of what our man from Havana is up to: "Hey Cuba, Hecuba?"; "Have a Havana"; "Quiet Days in Cliché"; "Castroenteritis," and so forth.
The earliest essays gathered in Mea Cuba date from shortly after the author left his job as a cultural attaché in the Cuban Embassy in Brussels and, declaring himself an exile, settled in Europe in 1965. (He now lives in London.) The most recent essay is from 1992. The subjects of most of them, and certainly of the most interesting, are the lives, travails and various exquisite martyrdoms of Cuban intellectuals under the regime of Fidel Castro, as reflected on by the author for an...
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SOURCE: A review of Mea Cuba in Times Literary Supplement, No. 4787, December 30, 1994, p. 7.
[In the following review, Gallagher cites examples of repression by the Castro regime in both Mea Cuba and Reinaldo Arenas's Before Night Falls.]
How does Fidel Castro get away with it? He has presided for thirty-five years over one of the most oppressive regimes ever known, only a few miles off the coast of Florida. Until recently, he seemed to be surviving thanks only to subsidies from the Soviet Union, but there are no obvious signs of his imminent demise. This despite the fact that life in Cuba is so awful that about one-fifth of all Cubans have left the island, among them most of the country's intellectuals. Guillermo Cabrera Infante, Cuba's Finest novelist, has lived in exile in London for nearly thirty years. Reinaldo Arenas, the best of the younger novelists who started writing under Castro, escaped to Florida among more than 100,000 boat people who fled from the Cuban port of Mariel in 1980. He subsequently committed suicide after ten years in exile. Through all this, Castro, whom Cabrera Infante has described as the only free man in Cuba, survives and thrives. In just these past few weeks, while the US administration was ordering the occupation of neighbouring Haiti allegedly to restore democracy, it was at the same time practically begging Castro not to allow any more Cubans to leave....
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SOURCE: A review of Mea Cuba, in New York Review of Books, Vol. XLII, No. 2, February 2, 1995, pp. 14-16.
[In the following review, Reed chronicles Cabrera Infante's career, and praises him for "stand[ing] quite obstinately apart" from "the literature of frustration" employed by other Cuban exiles.]
To be Cuban is to be born in Cuba. To be Cuban is to go with Cuba everywhere. To be Cuban is to carry Cuba like a persistent memory. We all carry Cuba within like an unheard music, like a rare vision that we know by heart. Cuba is a paradise from which we flee by trying to return.
In Mea Cuba, Guillermo Cabrera Infante gathers together all the separate writings on Cuba—articles, essays, memoirs, portraits, reflections, prepared talks—that he has produced since October 3, 1965, the day he left Cuba on a flight to Belgium (where he had been serving as cultural attaché) on the understanding of the authorities that he would not return for two years. His own understanding was different. As the plane passed the point of no return, he says,
I knew then what would be my destiny: to travel without returning to Cuba, to care for my daughters and to occupy myself by/in literature. I don't know whether or not I pronounced the magic formula—"silence, exile, cunning"—but I can say that it is easier in this time to adopt the literary style than to...
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SOURCE: A review of Mea Cuba, in Antioch Review, Vol. 53, No. 4, Fall, 1995, pp. 494-95.
[In the following review, Quan faults Cabrera Infante for failing to note "the positive aspects of the Cuban revolution."]
This wide-ranging collection of essays, articles, talks, and book reviews is by one of the foremost Cuban writers of this century. Written after his defection from Cuba in 1965, these pieces cover such topics as Lorca's sojourn in Cuba, a speculation on what the world would be like had there been no Columbus, and the acting careers of famous politicians. The principal topic, however, is the cultural politics of Cuba after the 1959 revolution. These political essays offer much fascinating detail about the lives of Cuban intellectuals. Many of the pieces will be of interest primarily to area scholars. Nevertheless, the book contains many gems of interest to the general reader, and the author's characteristic and always entertaining wordplay is faithfully translated.
From 1959–61, Infante served as editor-in-chief of the literary supplement of the Cuban government's official newspaper, Revolución. Differences with Castro led to his removal from this position, and eventually he was assigned as cultural attaché to the Cuban Embassy in Belgium. Returning to Cuba in 1965 for his mother's funeral, he found revolutionary Havana had become "like the wrong side of hell."...
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SOURCE: A review of Delito por bailar el chachachá in World Literature Today, Vol. 70, Autumn, 1996, pp. 921-22.
[In the following review, Ferreira takes issue with Cabrera Infante for his numerous attacks on the Castro regime, which Ferreira says belong in a memoir rather than a collection of stories.]
It is no secret to any reader of the works of Guillermo Cabrera Infante that, although he has lived in exile in London since the 1960s, the center of this Cuban writer's fictional universe has always been Havana. In fact, his masterpiece, Tres tristes tigres (1967), is a vast exploration of that city's once-upon-a-time intense bohemian nightlife. But whereas in Tres tristes tigres memory and nostalgia play a major role in the portrayal of Cuba's capital in the 1950s, a bittersweet tone permeates Cabrera Infante's latest sentimental journey to his homeland, Delito por bailar el chachachá.
The book is a collection that includes a brief prologue and epilogue along with three short stories: "En el gran ecbó," "La mujer que se ahoga," and the title story, "Delito por bailar el chachachá." All three could be read as samples of the writer's unique uses of language: in the first two stories a brief, minimalist style reminiscent of Hemingway's best dialogue; in the third story an exuberant, transgressive prose.
In the prologue and epilogue Cabrera...
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Feal, Rosemary Geisdorfer. "Works Cited." In her Novel Lives: The Fictional Autobiographies of Guillermo Cabrera Infante and Mario Vargas Llosa, pp. 170-75. No. 226, North Carolina Studies in the Romance Languages and Literatures. Chapel Hill: Department of Romance Languages, University of North Carolina, 1986.
An extensive bibliography of works about Cabrera Infante and Mario Vargas Llosa.
Janes, Regina. "Ta(l)king Liberties: On Guillermo Cabrera Infante." Salmagundi 82-83 (Spring/Summer 1989): 222-37.
Discusses Cabrera Infante's career, his opposition to Castro, two of his novels (Three Trapped Tigers and Infante's Inferno), and aspects of his personality.
Alvarez-Borland, Isabel. "La Habana para un Infante difunto: Cabrera Infante's Self Conscious Narrative." Hispania 68, No. 1 (March 1985): 44-48.
Provides a framework for understanding La Habana para un Infante difunto as a series of episodes that "oscillate … between [the narrator's] collective" and "individual" experiences.
Feal, Rosemary Geisdorfer. "The Duchamp Effect: G. Cabrera Infante and Readymade Art."...
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