From Cuba with a Song is not a novel in the traditional sense; rather, Sarduy’s second work of fiction breaks down the founding conventions of novelistic genre: character, plot, and theme. The innovative thrust of From Cuba with a Song lies in its radical alteration of traditional plot. Instead of telling a story in linear fashion, From Cuba with a Song reads like a verbal jigsaw puzzle composed of three pieces or narrative sequences attached to a “head”—the introductory “Curriculum cubense.”
This first section traces a drawing that helps the reader assemble Sarduy’s experiment in the novel form. An Asian and a black woman surround a blond, white male at the center of the picture. He stands next to Help, one-half of the pair of twins who reappear throughout the work, and close to them the “Waxen Woman,” the face of Death, absorbs the entire scene. The drawing displayed in “Curriculum cubense,” “a giant four-leaf clover, or a four-headed animal facing the four cardinal points, or a Yoruba sign of the four roads,” fills in the outline of an empty plot. Each figure in the picture corresponds to one of the three fictions that make up From Cuba with a Song. The Chinese and the black woman become protagonists of their own tales—Lotus Flower in “By the River of Rose Ashes” and “Dolores Rondón” in her namesake piece. The white man, Mortal Pérez, fills the center of the drawing since he is in a relation of desire to the two women. Yet he is also the center of his own supreme fiction, “The Entry of Christ in Havana,” first as Everyman and then as a baroque Christ figure. The three tales are designed to depict the linguistic and erotic sensibility proper to the racial layers superimposed on the mosaic of...
(The entire section is 729 words.)