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May 2005

Close, But No Cigar

Image: Bart Friedman

No longer exactly contraband in the U.S. (see guest editor Esther Allen's recent essay), Cuban authors still tweak authority and flirt with danger. Norberto Fuentes enters the inner life of the dictator in his irreverent "Autobiography of Fidel Castro"; the opposition journalist and poet Raúl Rivero considers tyranny, fidelity, and homeland; Francisco García González hops a truck packed with hitchhikers and fantasies; Leonardo Padura follows a disgraced journalist longing for the sensual Venus of Velázquez; José Manuel Prieto presents a socialist's self-described study of frivolity; Sonia Bravo's Fidelista looks back at her spartan lifetime of loyalty; and Eduardo del Llano's young writer-protagonist discovers his unlikely name's already in use as a pseudonym. Warmest thanks to guest co-editors Jacqueline Loss and Esther Whitfield, whose great expertise and years of dedication to the promotion of Cuban literature have contributed enormously to this issue. And after the success of our live forums last month (still open! read and contribute here), come back to this space on Wednesday, May 18, at 3:00 EDT for a forum with Norman Manea on the importance and difficulties of literary translations, particularly (but not only) in a closed society.

Image courtesy of Bart Friedman

Doors, Windows, and the Office of Foreign Assets Control

The Cuban novelist, essayist, musicologist, and diplomat Alejo Carpentier was celebrated during his lifetime as one of the greatest Latin American novelists of the twentieth century, and his

from Chapter 1, The Autobiography of Fidel Castro

Beneath the shade of a tamarind tree in bloom My father was smoking under the tamarind tree while the women skinned the animals and peeled the cassava. Poor thing. I see him getting a breath


Why do I have to die, Adelaida, in this jungle where I myself fed the wild animals where I hear even my own voice in the awful chorus of the street. Why here where we wanted trees

You Don’t Have to Reach Heaven

The sun reflects off the asphalt. For the hundredth time, Ishmael shades his eyes with his hand to his visor, and he sees the truck. "Five!" calls out the amarillo.1 The couple climbs

Puerta de Alcalá

It loved to happen. -Marcus Aurelius (Written over the doorway to Seymour and Buddy Glass's bedroom in J. D. Salinger's Franny and Zooey) He had always heard that to name disasters

You’ve Never Seen Red Like This Before

I At ten o'clock on a fine sunny morning I went out for a stroll and, as luck would have it, ran into Marina in front of the big department stores in the city center. My friend was

I Am Spartan

To you, my friend Spartan, Sofia said to Sandra, reminding her of snowbound icy Moscow where she was trained as a StalinistFidelistaSpartan in long lines at thirty below zero with

You Know My Name

In February, during the Book Fair, my first novel was published. It merited two reviews, one in the May-June issue of El Caimán Barbudo, and the other in La Gaceta of July-August. The

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