Guillermo Cabrera Infante 1929–-
(Has also written under the pseudonym G. Cain) Cuban-born novelist, short story writer, essayist, critic, scriptwriter, editor, journalist, nonfiction writer, translator, and poet.
Guillermo Cabrera Infante is considered one of Latin America's most original and influential writers. Much of his fiction is set in Havana, where he was raised, and details the repressive and violent social and political climate during the Fulgencio Batista regime prior to the 1959 Cuban Revolution.
Cabrera Infante was born in Gibara, a small city on the northern coast of Cuba. His parents, Guillermo Cabrera and Zoila Infante, founded the local Communist party and were arrested in 1936 because of their political activities. Cabrera Infante was seven years old when his parents were imprisoned under Fulgencio Batista's rule. Following their release from prison, Cabrera Infante's parents continued to suffer political persecution. Blacklisted and unable to find work in Gibara, Cabrera Infante's father decided to move his impoverished family to Havana, where Cabrera Infante later attended the University of Havana. Cabrera Infante developed an interest in literature and left the university in 1948 to pursue a literary career. He edited the journal Bohemia, founded the literary magazine Nueva generación, and helped establish the Cinemateca de Cuba (Film Library of Cuba). By 1952, Cabrera Infante's writing was censored for its political content, reflecting the author's clandestine activity against the Batista regime. When Fidel Castro seized power in 1959, Cabrera Infante became involved with the new government, serving on the Bureau of Cultural Affairs and as the cultural attaché to Brussels. Following Castro's rise to power, Cabrera Infante also became editor of Lunes de Revolución, the literary supplement to the pro-Castro newspaper Revolución. In 1961, Castro disbanded Lunes de Revolución when its editors protested the censorship of a documentary film directed by Cabrera Infante's brother that depicted Havana's nightlife during the height of Batista's rule. Cabrera Infante published his first short fiction collection, Así en la paz como en la guerra (In Peace as in War) in 1960. After leaving Cuba in 1965, Cabrera Infante eventually settled in London.
Major Works of Short Fiction
Cabrera Infante's short fiction primarily deals with Cuba's political turmoil. The short stories in Así en la paz como en la guerra underscore the author's contempt for the Batista dictatorship. “Balada de plomo y yerro” (“Ballad of Lead and Error”), one of the short stories in the collection, takes place in the gangster world of Cuba during the 1950s where political assassination and murders were carried out by the same people the author attempts to provoke in the story. Throughout “Balada de plomo y yerro,” a drunken American sings an obscene song in English and, on the grounds that the foul language was an “affront to common decency,” Batista's censors jail and fine the author. Cabrera Infante later repudiated Así en la paz como en la guerra as overly realistic at the expense of creativity. Vista del amanecer en el trópico (1974; A View of Dawn in the Tropics), the author's second short fiction collection, has drawn criticism because of its similarity in style and subject matter to Así en la paz como en la guerra.
Both as a novelist and short story writer, Cabrera Infante is praised for his narrative skills, vivid imagery, irreverence, and biting insights. Some critics have compared Cabrera Infante's writing style to that of Ernest Hemingway because the author often intersperses his long, descriptive sentences with short, staccato statements. Other critics have compared Cabrera Infante to Josef Conrad and Vladimir Nabokov because he has written and translated some of his works in English, showing facility with a language other than his own. Cabrera Infante's writing fills the reader “with a heightened awareness of injustice and even evil,” said critic Terry J. Peavler.