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Home arrow Language & Literature arrow Minima Cuba: Heretical Poetics and Power in Post-Soviet Cuba


The nineties was the first era, since the revolution, in which a whole generation of intellectuals had lost faith in the grand narratives sustaining the nation’s ideological cohesion. Although there had been critical writers before, they had never constituted a generational trend. Of course, this was also a sign of the times, and a consequence of the end of the Soviet Union. Cuba had always relied on culture for nation building, and after the socialist debacle it needed a new cultural platform. It needed a movement that would reignite revolutionary ideology by adapting itself to the new political circumstances. In view of the economic reforms, the need for a new cultural discourse became even more imperative. The spirit of the reforms was antithetical to the socialist ideology favored by the government and therefore had to be palliated with a more humanistic doctrine. The new trends of postmodernity, however, in particular those embraced by the younger generations, did not lend themselves to this goal. The solution was a return to the past to revisit the work of writers ostracized in the seventies: Grupo Origenes, and most specifically, the work of Jose Lezama Lima and Virgilio Pinera. It was no coincidence, however, that Lezama and Pinera were among the writers who most influenced the generation of young poets. Criticism of Lezama’s and Pinera’s work became a bone of contention between official intellectuals from previous generations and the nineties poets (as well as intellectuals of the diaspora). Thus began what Rafael Rojas has called an ideological war to reclaim ownership of cultural memory, a vicarious way of continuing the ideological fight that had divided the nation during the revolution (Rojas 2006a, 14).

The revival of Lezama’s work was a result of the biopolitical govern- mentality that proved to be a much more effective form of control. During the seventies, control was imposed through ostracizing techniques (a way to eliminate dissension). In the eighties and nineties, however, this approach was turned on its head. The reintroduction by critics and cultural politics of works previously ignored turned out to be a much more effective technique. The rationale behind this new political strategy was twofold. On the one hand, it was part of the social campaign of acceptance of difference, especially sexual difference. To recognize Lezama’s and Pinera’s queer identity suited the politics of tolerance that the government was advancing. On the other hand, as I have shown, Lezama’s work was resurrected through an ideological matrix that suited the official political agendas. It was precisely the sexual aspect of his work that the critics sublimated. That is, Vitier erased the sexual puissance that can be found in Paradiso by sublating it under Catholicism. Prats argued that sexual representation in Lezama always had a reproductive goal. Fowler, a poet of the nineties, read the excess of sexual puissance in Lezama as a sign of his religious doubts. Marques de Armas read the eighties poetics as the expression of a search for a pastoral idea of pleasure. That is, Fowler and Marques de Armas began questioning a language representing the plenitude of being by showing that such plenitude was a horror vacui. As many scholars have shown, the nineties official narrative about Lezama reified his work. I have analyzed how these teleological readings of Lezama have reinterpreted his work as a biopolitical gesture, subjecting his thought to state power. Most important, these teleological and totalizing readings are the symptom of a discourse that has transformed citizens into docile bodies. In other words, like the baroque and its endless deployment of words, teleological readings about the body are actually hiding its lack, a lack that metaphorically appears in Diaspora(s)’s work as bare life. But the representation of these figures in Diaspora(s)’s texts is also very ambiguous. On the one hand, the figure of the schizo speaks of the endless flow of a desire without goal. On the other hand, as Sanchez Mejias’s poetics show, Diaspora(s) constructs itself as a vanguardist movement always in search for a new language. Does this poetic quest not represent an epistemological, and consequently, an ideological desire for change? Instead of reading it as a contradiction, I am inclined to think that it is indicating the resistance of their immanent poetics to acknowledge the excess that poetic language creates. That is, the excess that symptomatically reveals the representation of homo sacer creeping into their texts, not only as the docile body that biopolitics creates but also as the specter of a post-Marxism yet to come.

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