(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Lezama Lima, José 1910–1976

Lezama Lima was a Cuban poet, essayist, and novelist. A disciple of the baroque poet Góngora, Lezama Lima is best known for Paradiso, a complex, experimental novel about a Cuban family. His work is out of favor with the Castro regime for its rejection of revolutionary themes. (See also CLC, Vol. 4; and Contemporary Authors, obituary, Vols. 69-72.)

Claudia Joan Waller

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

An exotic narration of family history, the theme of adolescent friendship, homosexualism, mythology, and world scriptures, Paradiso embraces what may well be Latin America's greatest literary testimony to universal man's intellectual and spiritual evolution.

Within a complex narrative of Gongoristic imagery, disguised allusions, and vague limits of external reality, the enigmatic significance and symbolic themes of Paradiso represent the work's greatest difficulty. A careful examination of the novel's highly philosophical content, revealing a concentrated focus on religious systems of the orient and the various symbols associated with them, led to my investigation of the eastern...

(The entire section is 1558 words.)

Peter Moscoso-Gongora

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[The] real subject of Paradiso is style. The grouping of hautes bourgeoises Cuban families, their illnesses, deaths, petty preoccupations, are pegs on which to hang a series of elaborations. The triad of young sons growing to manhood, José Cemí, Fronesis, Foción, and their discovery of the subterfuges of Eros, achieves some reality, though less in their human dimensions than as a sort of chess problem. Sensuality and intellectual puzzles, character and incident, the real and the imagined whirl away in the rush of a verbal storm that wishes to concentrate on itself. The lack of stylistic demarcation between the various speakers and the narration is an indication that the aim of Paradiso...

(The entire section is 870 words.)

Gustavo PéRez Firmat

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)


[While] there exist significant parallels between elements in [Paradiso] and certain symbols of Eastern philosophy, the preponderant correlative is the Divina Commedia, after which Lezama has patterned not only the structure of the novel but also the climactic last scene….

[Cemí's] attainment of paradise entails a concomitant affirmation of his homosexuality; within the novel's symbolic corpus, this affirmation constitutes a descent to the Underworld. Unlike Dante the Pilgrim, Cemí simultaneously ascends and descends, entering Paradiso as he enters Inferno. His enigmatic polar movement can be understood as the ritual component of a process...

(The entire section is 2088 words.)

Robert Martin Adams

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[The] polyphlusboious richness of Paradiso is to be sensed on every page; it may be chiefly a verbal phenomenon, but that's far from implying a sense of impoverishment. Like Joyce, Lezama has a gift for mingling the obscene with the erudite, for phantasmagorizing gobbets of realistic detail, for deep-plowing the subconscious. The various miscellaneous ingredients of the fiction are never held under such strict control that one can't envision them exploding or spiraling off into separate nebulae. From the beginning, it's an anxious, a high-tension performance; and after the disappearance from the book of Fronesis and Foción (abrupt and inconclusive, hardly mitigated at all), the orbits widen still further, the...

(The entire section is 336 words.)