Bulletin of Hispanic Studies

The Literary City of Havana and the Restoration of Culture in the Writing of Abilio Estévez

Bulletin of Hispanic Studies (2013), 90, (7), 835–852.

Abstract

This article redresses the lack of critical attention to contemporary Cuban narratives that strive to reconcile an inherited cultural symbology with the perceived deficiencies of the present. While dollar fiction, dirty realism and the new detective novel expose some of the paradoxes of Cuba's Special Period, other texts seek to recover a more inclusive literary heterotopia from the site of a crumbling socialist utopia. These refracted cultural responses enter into dialogue with the poets who collaborated in the production of the literary magazine Orígenes (1944-1956). A key exponent of this trend is Abilio Estévez (b. 1954, in exile in Spain since 2002). The narrator of Los palacios distantes (2002) mourns the inconsistencies between the everyday city of Havana and the literary cities desired by the characters. Yet by negotiating Havana's ruins, the foundations of the urban palimpsest can be converted into a new representational space.

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Estévez, Abilio, 2004. Inventario secreto de La Habana (Barcelona: Tusquets Editores). Inventario secreto de La Habana Google Scholar

Estévez, Abilio, 2008. El navegante dormido (Barcelona: Tusquets Editores). El navegante dormido Google Scholar

Favreau, Jean-Pierre, 1999. Rue Caraïbes (Coëx, France: En Vues). Rue Caraïbes Google Scholar

Ferrari, Guillermina de, 2003. ‘Aesthetics Under Siege: Dirty Realism and Pedro Juan Gutiérrez's Triología sucia de La Habana’, Arizona Journal of Hispanic Studies, 7: 23-43. ‘Aesthetics Under Siege: Dirty Realism and Pedro Juan Gutiérrez's Triología sucia de La Habana’ Arizona Journal of Hispanic Studies 7 23 43 Google Scholar

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Fornet, Jorge, 2006. Los nuevos paradigmas: Prólogo narrativo al siglo XXI (Havana: Editorial Letras Cubanas). Los nuevos paradigmas: Prólogo narrativo al siglo XXI Google Scholar

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Foucault, Michel, and Jay Miskowiec, 1986. ‘Of Other Spaces’, Diacritics, 16.1: 22-27. ‘Of Other Spaces’ Diacritics 16 22 27 Google Scholar

Franco, Jean, 2002. The Decline and Fall of the Lettered City: Latin America in the Cold War (Cambridge, MA, and London: Harvard University Press). The Decline and Fall of the Lettered City: Latin America in the Cold War Google Scholar

Freud, Sigmund, 1961 [1920]. Beyond the Pleasure Principle (The Standard Edition), trans. James Strachey (New York: Liveright Publishing Corporation). Beyond the Pleasure Principle Google Scholar

González-Abellás, Miguel, 2002. ‘La figura de la mulata cubana en el fin del milenio: "Trilogía sucia de La Habana"’, Hispanic Journal, 22.1: 251-62. ‘La figura de la mulata cubana en el fin del milenio: "Trilogía sucia de La Habana"’ Hispanic Journal 22 251 62 Google Scholar

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Kapcia, Antoni, 2005. Havana: The Making of Cuban Culture (Oxford and New York: Berg). Havana: The Making of Cuban Culture Google Scholar

Kermode, Frank, 1968 [1967]. The Sense of an Ending: Studies in the Theory of Fiction (London: Oxford University Press). The Sense of an Ending: Studies in the Theory of Fiction Google Scholar

Lacan, Jacques, 1977 [1966]. Écrits: A Selection, trans. Alan Sheridan (London: Tavistock Publications and Routledge). Écrits: A Selection Google Scholar

Lefebvre, Henri, 1991 [1974]. The Production of Space, trans. Donald Nicholson-Smith (Oxford: Blackwell). The Production of Space Google Scholar

Leiner, Marvin, 1994. Sexual Politics in Cuba: Machismo, Homosexuality, and AIDS (Boulder, CO: Westview Press). Sexual Politics in Cuba: Machismo, Homosexuality, and AIDS Google Scholar

Lumsden, Ian, 1996. Machos, Maricones, and Gays: Cuba and Homosexuality (Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press). Machos, Maricones, and Gays: Cuba and Homosexuality Google Scholar

Martin, Gerald, 1989. Journeys Through the Labyrinth: Latin American Fiction in the Twentieth Century (London and New York: Verso). Journeys Through the Labyrinth: Latin American Fiction in the Twentieth Century Google Scholar

Padura Fuentes, Leonardo, 2005. La neblina del ayer (Barcelona: Tusquets). La neblina del ayer Google Scholar

Ponte, Antonio José, 2002. El libro perdido de los origenistas (Mexico City: Editorial Aldus). El libro perdido de los origenistas Google Scholar

Quiroga, José, 2005. Cuban Palimpsests (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press). Cuban Palimpsests Google Scholar

Rojas, Rafael, 2003. ‘El campo roturado. Políticas intelectuales de la narrativa cubana de fin de siglo’, in Revista Hispano Cubana: Congreso Creación y Exilio, 13: 41-48. ‘El campo roturado. Políticas intelectuales de la narrativa cubana de fin de siglo’ Revista Hispano Cubana: Congreso Creación y Exilio 13 41 48 Google Scholar

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Valdés-Zamora, Armando, 2009. ‘La escritura imaginaria de Abilio Estévez’, in Encuentro de la Cultura Cubana, 51/52 (invierno/primavera): 123-32. ‘La escritura imaginaria de Abilio Estévez’ Encuentro de la Cultura Cubana 51/52 123 32 Google Scholar

Vitier, Cintio, 1994. Para llegar a Orígenes (Havana: Editorial Letras Cubanas). Para llegar a Orígenes Google Scholar

Whitfield, Esther, 2002. ‘Autobiografía sucia: The Body Impolitic of Trilogía sucia de La Habana’, Revista de Estudios Hispánicos, 36.2: 329-52. ‘Autobiografía sucia: The Body Impolitic of Trilogía sucia de La Habana’ Revista de Estudios Hispánicos 36 329 52 Google Scholar

Whitfield, Esther, 2008. Cuban Currency: The Dollar and ‘Special Period’ Fiction (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press). Cuban Currency: The Dollar and ‘Special Period’ Fiction Google Scholar

Wilkinson, Stephen, 2006. Detective Fiction in Cuban Society and Culture (Bern: Peter Lang). Detective Fiction in Cuban Society and Culture Google Scholar

Yánez Delgado, Yanira, 2009. ‘El discurso de lo cotidiano: margen, supervivencia y subversión en Trilogía Sucia de la Habana, de Pedro Juan Gutiérrez’, Contexto: Revista Anual de Estudios Literarios, 15: 33-47. ‘El discurso de lo cotidiano: margen, supervivencia y subversión en Trilogía Sucia de la Habana, de Pedro Juan Gutiérrez’ Contexto: Revista Anual de Estudios Literarios 15 33 47 Google Scholar

Young, Allen, 1981. Gays under the Cuban Revolution (San Francisco, CA: Grey Fox Press). Gays under the Cuban Revolution Google Scholar

Žižek, Slavoj, 2002. Welcome to the Desert of the Real! Five Essays on September 11 and Related Dates (London and New York: Verso). Welcome to the Desert of the Real! Five Essays on September 11 and Related Dates Google Scholar

Abreu Arcia, Alberto, 2007. Los juegos de la escritura o la (re)escritura de la historia (Havana: Casa de las Américas). Los juegos de la escritura o la (re)escritura de la historia Google Scholar

Álvarez-Tabío Albo, Emma, 2000. Invención de La Habana (Barcelona: Editorial Casiopea). Invención de La Habana Google Scholar

Arguelles, Lourdes, and B. Ruby Rich, 1984. ‘Homosexuality, Homophobia, and Revolution: Notes Towards an Understanding of the Cuban Lesbian and Gay Male Experience, Part 1’, Signs, 9.4, The Lesbian Issue (Spring): 683-99. ‘Homosexuality, Homophobia, and Revolution: Notes Towards an Understanding of the Cuban Lesbian and Gay Male Experience, Part 1’ Signs 9 683 99 Google Scholar

Arguelles, Lourdes, and B. Ruby Rich, 1985. ‘Homosexuality, Homophobia, and Revolution: Notes towards an Understanding of the Cuban Lesbian and Gay Male Experience, Part 2’, Signs, 11. 1 (Autumn): 120-36. ‘Homosexuality, Homophobia, and Revolution: Notes towards an Understanding of the Cuban Lesbian and Gay Male Experience, Part 2’ Signs 11 120 36 Google Scholar

Baquero, Gastón, 1998. Poesía completa (Madrid: Editorial Verbum). Poesía completa Google Scholar

Bejel, Emilio, 2001. Gay Cuban Nation (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press). Gay Cuban Nation Google Scholar

Benjamin, Walter, 1977 [1928]. The Origins of German Drama (New York and London: Verso). The Origins of German Drama Google Scholar

Birkenmaier, Anke, 2001. ‘Más allá del realismo sucio: El Rey de La Habana de Pedro Juan Gutiérrez’, Cuban Studies, 32: 27-54. ‘Más allá del realismo sucio: El Rey de La Habana de Pedro Juan Gutiérrez’ Cuban Studies 32 27 54 Google Scholar

Birkenmaier, Anke, 2004. ‘El realismo sucio en América Latina: Reflexiones a partir de Pedro Juan Gutiérrez’, Miradas, 6. [Online.] Available at: www.pedrojuangutierrez.com/Ensayos_ensayos_Anke%20Birkenmaier.htm (accessed 22 August 2013). www.pedrojuangutierrez.com/Ensayos_ensayos_Anke%20Birkenmaier.htm ‘El realismo sucio en América Latina: Reflexiones a partir de Pedro Juan Gutiérrez’ Miradas 6 Google Scholar

Braham, Persephone, 2004. Crimes against the State, Crimes against Persons: Detective Fiction in Cuba and Mexico (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press). Crimes against the State, Crimes against Persons: Detective Fiction in Cuba and Mexico Google Scholar

Buckwalter-Arias, James, 2005a. ‘Discurso origenista y Cuba postsoviética’, Encuentro de la Cultura Cubana, 36: 54-65. ‘Discurso origenista y Cuba postsoviética’ Encuentro de la Cultura Cubana 36 54 65 Google Scholar

Buckwalter-Arias, James, 2005b. ‘Reinscribing the Aesthetic: Cuban Narrative and Post-Soviet Cultural Politics’, PMLA, 120.2: 362-74. ‘Reinscribing the Aesthetic: Cuban Narrative and Post-Soviet Cultural Politics’ PMLA 120 362 74 Google Scholar

Buckwalter-Arias, James, 2010. Cuba and the New Origenismo (Woodbridge, UK: Tamesis Books). Cuba and the New Origenismo Google Scholar

Calvino, Italo, 1997 [1972]. Invisible Cities, trans. William Weaver (London: Vintage Books). Invisible Cities Google Scholar

Carpentier, Alejo, 1964. Tientos y diferencias (Mexico City: Universidad Autónoma de México). Tientos y diferencias Google Scholar

Casamayor Cisneros, Odette, 2004. ‘¿Cómo vivir las ruinas habaneras de los años noventa?: respuestas disímiles desde la isla en las obras de Abilio Estévez, Pedro Juan Gutiérrez y Ena Lucía Portela’, Caribbean Studies, 32.002: 63-103. ‘¿Cómo vivir las ruinas habaneras de los años noventa?: respuestas disímiles desde la isla en las obras de Abilio Estévez, Pedro Juan Gutiérrez y Ena Lucía Portela’ Caribbean Studies 32 63 103 Google Scholar

Cernuda, Luis, 1982 [1936]. La realidad y el deseo (Madrid: Editorial Castalia). La realidad y el deseo Google Scholar

Culler, Jonathan, 1976. ‘Presupposition and Intertextuality’, MLN, 91.6, Comparative Literature (Dec.): 1380-1396. ‘Presupposition and Intertextuality’ MLN 91 1380 1396 Google Scholar

Davies, Catherine, 2000. ‘The Soup of Signs: Postmodernism, Politics, and Culture in Cuba’, Latin American Perspectives, 27.4, Politics, Culture and Postmodernism (July): 10-121. ‘The Soup of Signs: Postmodernism, Politics, and Culture in Cuba’ Latin American Perspectives 27 10 121 Google Scholar

Deleuze, Gilles, 2004a [1968]. Difference and Repetition, trans. Paul Patton (London and New York: Continuum Press). Difference and Repetition Google Scholar

Deleuze, Gilles, 2004b [1972]. Anti-Oedipus, trans. Robert Hurley, Mark Seem and Helen R. Lane (London and New York: Continuum Press). Anti-Oedipus Google Scholar

Estévez, Abilio, 1997. Tuyo es el reino (Barcelona: Tusquets Editores). Tuyo es el reino Google Scholar

Estévez, Abilio, 2002. Los palacios distantes (Barcelona: Tusquets Editores). Los palacios distantes Google Scholar

Estévez, Abilio, 2004. Inventario secreto de La Habana (Barcelona: Tusquets Editores). Inventario secreto de La Habana Google Scholar

Estévez, Abilio, 2008. El navegante dormido (Barcelona: Tusquets Editores). El navegante dormido Google Scholar

Favreau, Jean-Pierre, 1999. Rue Caraïbes (Coëx, France: En Vues). Rue Caraïbes Google Scholar

Ferrari, Guillermina de, 2003. ‘Aesthetics Under Siege: Dirty Realism and Pedro Juan Gutiérrez's Triología sucia de La Habana’, Arizona Journal of Hispanic Studies, 7: 23-43. ‘Aesthetics Under Siege: Dirty Realism and Pedro Juan Gutiérrez's Triología sucia de La Habana’ Arizona Journal of Hispanic Studies 7 23 43 Google Scholar

Fiddes, Paul S., 2000. The Promised End: Eschatology in Theology and Literature (Oxford: Blackwell Publishers). The Promised End: Eschatology in Theology and Literature Google Scholar

Fornet, Jorge, 2006. Los nuevos paradigmas: Prólogo narrativo al siglo XXI (Havana: Editorial Letras Cubanas). Los nuevos paradigmas: Prólogo narrativo al siglo XXI Google Scholar

Foucault, Michel, 2007 [1963]. Death and the Labyrinth: The World of Raymond Roussel, trans. Charles Ruas, ed. James Faubion (London and New York: Continuum International Group). Death and the Labyrinth: The World of Raymond Roussel Google Scholar

Foucault, Michel, and Jay Miskowiec, 1986. ‘Of Other Spaces’, Diacritics, 16.1: 22-27. ‘Of Other Spaces’ Diacritics 16 22 27 Google Scholar

Franco, Jean, 2002. The Decline and Fall of the Lettered City: Latin America in the Cold War (Cambridge, MA, and London: Harvard University Press). The Decline and Fall of the Lettered City: Latin America in the Cold War Google Scholar

Freud, Sigmund, 1961 [1920]. Beyond the Pleasure Principle (The Standard Edition), trans. James Strachey (New York: Liveright Publishing Corporation). Beyond the Pleasure Principle Google Scholar

González-Abellás, Miguel, 2002. ‘La figura de la mulata cubana en el fin del milenio: "Trilogía sucia de La Habana"’, Hispanic Journal, 22.1: 251-62. ‘La figura de la mulata cubana en el fin del milenio: "Trilogía sucia de La Habana"’ Hispanic Journal 22 251 62 Google Scholar

Kapcia, Antoni, 2000. Cuba: Island of Dreams (Oxford and New York: Berg). Cuba: Island of Dreams Google Scholar

Kapcia, Antoni, 2005. Havana: The Making of Cuban Culture (Oxford and New York: Berg). Havana: The Making of Cuban Culture Google Scholar

Kermode, Frank, 1968 [1967]. The Sense of an Ending: Studies in the Theory of Fiction (London: Oxford University Press). The Sense of an Ending: Studies in the Theory of Fiction Google Scholar

Lacan, Jacques, 1977 [1966]. Écrits: A Selection, trans. Alan Sheridan (London: Tavistock Publications and Routledge). Écrits: A Selection Google Scholar

Lefebvre, Henri, 1991 [1974]. The Production of Space, trans. Donald Nicholson-Smith (Oxford: Blackwell). The Production of Space Google Scholar

Leiner, Marvin, 1994. Sexual Politics in Cuba: Machismo, Homosexuality, and AIDS (Boulder, CO: Westview Press). Sexual Politics in Cuba: Machismo, Homosexuality, and AIDS Google Scholar

Lumsden, Ian, 1996. Machos, Maricones, and Gays: Cuba and Homosexuality (Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press). Machos, Maricones, and Gays: Cuba and Homosexuality Google Scholar

Martin, Gerald, 1989. Journeys Through the Labyrinth: Latin American Fiction in the Twentieth Century (London and New York: Verso). Journeys Through the Labyrinth: Latin American Fiction in the Twentieth Century Google Scholar

Padura Fuentes, Leonardo, 2005. La neblina del ayer (Barcelona: Tusquets). La neblina del ayer Google Scholar

Ponte, Antonio José, 2002. El libro perdido de los origenistas (Mexico City: Editorial Aldus). El libro perdido de los origenistas Google Scholar

Quiroga, José, 2005. Cuban Palimpsests (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press). Cuban Palimpsests Google Scholar

Rojas, Rafael, 2003. ‘El campo roturado. Políticas intelectuales de la narrativa cubana de fin de siglo’, in Revista Hispano Cubana: Congreso Creación y Exilio, 13: 41-48. ‘El campo roturado. Políticas intelectuales de la narrativa cubana de fin de siglo’ Revista Hispano Cubana: Congreso Creación y Exilio 13 41 48 Google Scholar

Roussel, Raymond, 2008 [1914]. Locus Solus, trans. Rupert Copeland Cuningham (London: Oneworld Classics Ltd.). Locus Solus Google Scholar

Song, H. Rosi, 2009. ‘Hard-Boiled for Hard Times in Leonardo Padura Fuentes's Detective Fiction’, Hispania, 92.2: 234-43. ‘Hard-Boiled for Hard Times in Leonardo Padura Fuentes's Detective Fiction’ Hispania 92 234 43 Google Scholar

Stead, Naomi, 2003. ‘The Value of Ruins: Allegories of Destruction in Benjamin and Speer’, Form/Work: An Interdisciplinary Journal of the Built Environment, 6 (October): 51-64. ‘The Value of Ruins: Allegories of Destruction in Benjamin and Speer’ Form/Work: An Interdisciplinary Journal of the Built Environment 6 51 64 Google Scholar

Stendhal, 1999 [1839]. The Charterhouse of Parma, trans. Margaret Mouldon (Oxford: Oxford University Press). The Charterhouse of Parma Google Scholar

Valdés-Zamora, Armando, 2009. ‘La escritura imaginaria de Abilio Estévez’, in Encuentro de la Cultura Cubana, 51/52 (invierno/primavera): 123-32. ‘La escritura imaginaria de Abilio Estévez’ Encuentro de la Cultura Cubana 51/52 123 32 Google Scholar

Vitier, Cintio, 1994. Para llegar a Orígenes (Havana: Editorial Letras Cubanas). Para llegar a Orígenes Google Scholar

Whitfield, Esther, 2002. ‘Autobiografía sucia: The Body Impolitic of Trilogía sucia de La Habana’, Revista de Estudios Hispánicos, 36.2: 329-52. ‘Autobiografía sucia: The Body Impolitic of Trilogía sucia de La Habana’ Revista de Estudios Hispánicos 36 329 52 Google Scholar

Whitfield, Esther, 2008. Cuban Currency: The Dollar and ‘Special Period’ Fiction (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press). Cuban Currency: The Dollar and ‘Special Period’ Fiction Google Scholar

Wilkinson, Stephen, 2006. Detective Fiction in Cuban Society and Culture (Bern: Peter Lang). Detective Fiction in Cuban Society and Culture Google Scholar

Yánez Delgado, Yanira, 2009. ‘El discurso de lo cotidiano: margen, supervivencia y subversión en Trilogía Sucia de la Habana, de Pedro Juan Gutiérrez’, Contexto: Revista Anual de Estudios Literarios, 15: 33-47. ‘El discurso de lo cotidiano: margen, supervivencia y subversión en Trilogía Sucia de la Habana, de Pedro Juan Gutiérrez’ Contexto: Revista Anual de Estudios Literarios 15 33 47 Google Scholar

Young, Allen, 1981. Gays under the Cuban Revolution (San Francisco, CA: Grey Fox Press). Gays under the Cuban Revolution Google Scholar

Žižek, Slavoj, 2002. Welcome to the Desert of the Real! Five Essays on September 11 and Related Dates (London and New York: Verso). Welcome to the Desert of the Real! Five Essays on September 11 and Related Dates Google Scholar

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Krol, Natalie