Severo Sarduy Biography


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Severo Sarduy (SAHR-dwee) was the most prominent link between twentieth century Latin American culture and the Parisian poststructuralist intellectual gay circles (the Tel Quel group). He was also a promoter of the “boom” of Latin American narrative in France in the 1960’s and after. He was born into a working-class family in a provincial Cuban town; at his birth, it was prophesied that he would become a writer. In 1956 he left for Havana to study medicine. There he joined the splinter group of gay writers who had recently abandoned José Lezama Lima’s journal Orígenes and had begun publishing Ciclón (1955-1957). Yet Sarduy remained dazzled by Lezama, whose work continued to be a major influence on his writing and on his concept of Latin American culture. Following Lezama’s lead, he developed an interest in art criticism, and visual arts would become an important influence on his novels.

Sarduy welcomed the Cuban Revolution of 1959, working on the “cultural front” until his departure for France at the end of that year to study art criticism at the Louvre. The intellectual ferment in France in the 1960’s proved too irresistible for him to return to Cuba after his government scholarship expired; he chose to stay in France and became a French citizen in 1967. An emigrant, and therefore a traitor, in the eyes of the Cuban government, Sarduy was ostracized there almost up to his death from acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) in 1993. Sarduy, however, dutifully maintained his faith in the revolution for many years, in spite of the ongoing savage persecution in Fidel Castro’s Cuba of gays in general and of his literary mentors, Lezama and Virgilio Piñera, in particular. Only much later would he exchange his faith in modern utopia for Buddhism and Afro-Cuban santería; strangely enough, after 1989, the revolution itself took similar steps, selling out its deteriorating rites of “machismo-Leninism”...

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Severo Sarduy Bibliography

(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Blanchard, Marc. “Site Unseen: Cuba on the Rue Jacob.” Sites 5 (Spring, 2001): 79-88. Profile of Sarduy focusing in his retention of “cultural difference” after settling in France.

Bush, Andrew. “On Exemplary and Postmodern Simulation: Robert Coover and Severo Sarduy.” Comparative Literature 44 (Spring, 1992): 174-193. Uses Sarduy and Robert Coover’s works as case studies in discussing the relationship between theory and fiction.

Gosser, Mary Ann. “Cobra.” In Critical Essays on the Literatures of Spain and Spanish America, edited by Luis T. González-del-Valle and Julio Baena. Boulder, Colo.: Society of Spanish and Spanish American Studies, 1991. Useful for a general reader in English.

Kushigian, Julia. Orientalism in the Hispanic Literary Tradition: In Dialogue with Borges, Paz, and Sarduy. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1991. Studies Sarduy’s Asian connection, the theme of oriental exoticism, and Asian influence on Latin American literature.

Montero, Oscar. The Name Game: Writing/Fading Writer in “De donde son los cantantes.” Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1988. Focuses on the narrative experiment.

Rivero-Potter, Alicia, ed. Between the Self and the Void: Essays in Honor of Severo Sarduy. Boulder, Colo.: Society of Spanish and Spanish American Studies, 1998. A collection of essays from a variety of perspectives summing up Sarduy’s career.

Salgado, Cesar Augusto. “Hybridity in New World Baroque Theory.” Journal of American Folklore 112 (Summer, 1999): 316-331. Discusses Sarduy’s “neobaroque” theory.

Santí, Enrico M. “Textual Politics: Severo Sarduy.” Latin American Literary Review 8, no. 16 (1980). A broad cultural perspective.