Journal of Romance Studies

The ‘other’ Havana of Leonardo Padura Fuentes: Palimpsests, heterotopias and cultural subversion in La neblina del ayer

Journal of Romance Studies (2014), 14, (3), 54–66.

Abstract

This article examines Cuban author Leonardo Padura Fuentes’ presentation of Havana in La neblina del ayer as a palimpsestic city where different spatial and temporal strata have been built one on top of the other as a consequence of the rapid historic and political changes in Cuba. I argue that, through his narrative representation of Havana, Padura challenges the binary and exclusionary image of Cuba promoted by the Revolution, proposing instead a composite picture encompassing the complex intertwining of space, history and power. Drawing on Michel Foucault’s concept of heterotopias, de Certeau’s city-text metaphor and Quiroga’s palimpsest model, I show how the erasure of the past is resisted in Cuba. In fact, these concepts violate conventional temporal and spatial norms and help us to stress the presence of counter-spaces and counter-histories which subvert the revolutionary hegemonic discourse. Therefore this article considers Padura’s depiction of the geographical and cultural stratification of Havana as a contestation of any form of historical or cultural homogeneity and as a critical reinterpretation of the Cuban present and past.

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Author details

Battaglia, Diana