Bulletin of Hispanic Studies

Cuban Realism, or the Novel as a Democratic Fiction: Abilio Estévez’s Los palacios distantes

Bulletin of Hispanic Studies (2020), 97, (10), 1095–1112.

Abstract

In the last decades, attention to post-Soviet Cuban fiction has often intimated that this body of literature is the aesthetic counterpart to socialism’s exhaustion and that its narrative is likely to follow a telos of disenchantment. This article argues that counter to such a paradigm and in the wake of the Special Period, Cuban fiction registers the formation of new subjectivities as it opens a space for a new politics through a non-mimetic form of realism that points to writing’s democratic capacity. Taking as an example Abilio Estévez’s 2002 novel Los palacios distantes, this article points to the novel’s suspension of dystopian causality and argues that textual interruptions in the novel afford the repartitioning of the limits of the sayable, visible and possible with respect to socialist ideology. This article draws attention to the politics of aesthetics in post-Soviet Cuban fiction, while also attributing this politics of form to the broader relation of aesthetics to politics.

En las ultimas décadas, atención a la ficción pos-Soviética en su narración del agotamiento del socialismo cubano ha sugerido que esta literatura es la contrapartida estética del agotamiento ideológico socialista y que, por ende, su narración obedece un inevitable telos de desencantamiento que da cuenta del fallo de tal política. Este artículo arguye que, contra este paradigma de acercamiento crítico, la ficción cubana del Periodo Especial registra la formación de nuevas subjetividades y lo hace mediante una forma no-mimética del realismo que marca la capacidad democrática de la escritura misma. Mediante un enfoque en la novela Los palacios distantes de Abilio Estévez, se demuestra como la suspensión de la causalidad en la narrativa hace posible la re-partición de los límites de lo decible, visible y posible. En el contexto del Periodo Especial, la ficción democrática de Estévez subvierte las formas predeterminadas de lo sensible. Este artículo expone estas subversiones para dar cuenta de la política de la estética en la ficción cubana post-Soviética.

Access Token
£25.00
READ THIS ARTICLE
If you have private access to this content, please log in with your username and password here

Works cited

Agamben, Giorgio, 1993. The Coming Community, trans. Michael Hardt (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press). Google Scholar

Badiou, Alan, 2007. The Century, trans. Alberto Toscano (Cambridge: Polity). Google Scholar

Barthes, Roland, 1989. ‘The Reality Effect’, in The Rustle of Language by Roland Barthes (Berkeley: University of California Press), pp. 141-48. Google Scholar

Béjar, Eduardo C., 2002-2003. ‘La salvación por la literatura’, Abilio Estévez entrevista. Encuentro de la Cultura Cubana 26-27: 91-97. Google Scholar

Birkenmaier, Anke, and Esther Whitfield (eds), 2011. Havana Beyond the Ruins: Cultural Mappings After 1989 (Durham, NC: Duke University Press). Google Scholar

The Blue Angel /Der blaue Engel. 1930, dir. Josef von Sternberg (UFA). Google Scholar

Carpentier, Alejo, 1964. ‘La ciudad de las columnas’, in Tientos y diferencias by Alejo Carpentier (Mexico City: Universidad Autónoma de México). Google Scholar

Casamayor-Cisneros, Odette, 2003. ‘¿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 32.2: 63-103. Google Scholar

Casamayor-Cisneros, Odette, 2010. ‘Soñando, cayendo y flotando: itinerarios ontológicos a través de la narrativa cubana post-soviética’, Revista Iberoamericana 76(232): 643-70. Google Scholar

Casamayor-Cisneros, Odette, 2012. ‘Floating in the Void: Ethical Weightlessness in Post-Soviet Cuban Narrative’, Bulletin of Latin American Research 31: 38-57. Google Scholar

Casamayor-Cisneros, Odette, 2013. Utopía, distopía e ingravidez: Reconfiguraciones cosmológicas en la narrativa postsoviética cubana (Madrid: Iberoamericana-Vervuert). Google Scholar

Chaviano, Daina, 1998. El hombre, la hembra y el hambre (Barcelona: Planeta). Google Scholar

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

Derrida, Jacques, 2004 [1981]. Dissemination, trans. Barbara Johnson (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press). Google Scholar

Díaz-Infante, Duanel, 2014. ‘Visión sobre los escombros. Ruina y melancolía en la narrativa cubana del “periodo especial”’, Revista iberoamericana 247: 511-31. Google Scholar

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

Estévez, Abilio, 1999. ‘Cuba está de moda’, El País, ‘Tribuna’, 15 March. Google Scholar

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

Fornet, Jorge, 2003. ‘La narrativa cubana entre la utopía y el desencanto’, Hispamérica 32.95: 3-20. Google Scholar

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

Foucault, Michel, 2008 [1967]. ‘Of Other Spaces’ in Heterotopia and the City (London and New York: Routledge), pp. 25-42. Google Scholar

Fresa y chocolate. 1993, dir. Tomas Gutiérrez Alea and Juan Carlos Tabio (ICAIC, IMCINE, SGAE, Tabasco Films, Miramax). Google Scholar

Guerra, Lillian, 2018. Heroes, Martyrs, and Political Messiahs in Revolutionary Cuba, 1946-1958 (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press). Google Scholar

Guevara, Ernesto Che, 2003. Che Guevara Reader: Writings on Politics and Revolution (Melbourne: Ocean Press). Google Scholar

Gutiérrez, Pedro Juan 1998. Trilogía sucia de La Habana (Barcelona: Anagrama). Google Scholar

Hernandez-Reguant, Ariana, 2009. Cuba in the Special Period: Culture and Ideology in the 1990s (New York: Springer). Google Scholar

Horton, Andrew, and Joanna E. Rapf, 2015. A Companion to Film Comedy (Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley). Google Scholar

Jameson, Fredric, 2010. ‘Afterword: A Note on Literary Realism’ in A Concise Companion to Realism (London: Wiley-Blackwell), pp. 279-89. Google Scholar

Kracauer, Siegfried, 2002 [1938]. Orpheus in Paris: Offenbach and the Paris of his Time (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press). Google Scholar

Krol, Natalie, 2013. ‘The Literary City of Havana and the Restoration of Culture in the Writing of Abilio Estévez’, Bulletin of Hispanic Studies 90.7: 835-52. Google Scholar

Lazzara, Michael, and Vicky Unruh (eds), 2009. Telling Ruins in Latin America (New York: Springer). Google Scholar

Limelight. 1952, dir. Charles Chaplin (Charles Chaplin Productions). Google Scholar

Murdoch, Brian, 2002. Fighting Songs and Warring Words: Popular Lyrics of Two World Wars (London and New York: Routledge). Google Scholar

Nemrava, Daniel, Jose Manuel Camacho and Milagros Ezquerro (eds), 2018. Abilio Estévez, entre la tradición y el olvido (Madrid: Editorial Verbum). Google Scholar

Plato, 1992. Republic, trans. George Maximilian Anthony Grube, ed. C. D. C. Reeve (Indianapolis: Hackett). Google Scholar

Ponte, Antonio Jose, 2005. Un arte de hacer ruinas (Mexico City: FCE). Google Scholar

Ponte, Antonio Jose, 2010 [1997]. Las comidas profundas (Rosario: Beatriz Viterbo Editora). Google Scholar

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

Rancière, Jacques, 2011. Mute Speech: Literature, Critical Theory, and Politics (New York: Columbia University Press). Google Scholar

Rancière, Jacques, 2017. The Lost Thread: The Democracy of Modern Fiction (London: Bloomsbury). Google Scholar

Rojas, Rafael, 2009. El estante vacío: literatura y política en Cuba (Barcelona: Anagrama). Google Scholar

Valdés, Zoe, 1995. La nada cotidiana (Barcelona: Salamandra). Google Scholar

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

Whitfield, Esther, 2011. ‘A Literature of Exhaustion: Cuban Writing and the Post-“Special Period”’, Revista de Estudios Hispánicos 45.1: 27-44. 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). Google Scholar

Agamben, Giorgio, 1993. The Coming Community, trans. Michael Hardt (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press). Google Scholar

Badiou, Alan, 2007. The Century, trans. Alberto Toscano (Cambridge: Polity). Google Scholar

Barthes, Roland, 1989. ‘The Reality Effect’, in The Rustle of Language by Roland Barthes (Berkeley: University of California Press), pp. 141-48. Google Scholar

Béjar, Eduardo C., 2002-2003. ‘La salvación por la literatura’, Abilio Estévez entrevista. Encuentro de la Cultura Cubana 26-27: 91-97. Google Scholar

Birkenmaier, Anke, and Esther Whitfield (eds), 2011. Havana Beyond the Ruins: Cultural Mappings After 1989 (Durham, NC: Duke University Press). Google Scholar

The Blue Angel /Der blaue Engel. 1930, dir. Josef von Sternberg (UFA). Google Scholar

Carpentier, Alejo, 1964. ‘La ciudad de las columnas’, in Tientos y diferencias by Alejo Carpentier (Mexico City: Universidad Autónoma de México). Google Scholar

Casamayor-Cisneros, Odette, 2003. ‘¿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 32.2: 63-103. Google Scholar

Casamayor-Cisneros, Odette, 2010. ‘Soñando, cayendo y flotando: itinerarios ontológicos a través de la narrativa cubana post-soviética’, Revista Iberoamericana 76(232): 643-70. Google Scholar

Casamayor-Cisneros, Odette, 2012. ‘Floating in the Void: Ethical Weightlessness in Post-Soviet Cuban Narrative’, Bulletin of Latin American Research 31: 38-57. Google Scholar

Casamayor-Cisneros, Odette, 2013. Utopía, distopía e ingravidez: Reconfiguraciones cosmológicas en la narrativa postsoviética cubana (Madrid: Iberoamericana-Vervuert). Google Scholar

Chaviano, Daina, 1998. El hombre, la hembra y el hambre (Barcelona: Planeta). Google Scholar

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

Derrida, Jacques, 2004 [1981]. Dissemination, trans. Barbara Johnson (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press). Google Scholar

Díaz-Infante, Duanel, 2014. ‘Visión sobre los escombros. Ruina y melancolía en la narrativa cubana del “periodo especial”’, Revista iberoamericana 247: 511-31. Google Scholar

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

Estévez, Abilio, 1999. ‘Cuba está de moda’, El País, ‘Tribuna’, 15 March. Google Scholar

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

Fornet, Jorge, 2003. ‘La narrativa cubana entre la utopía y el desencanto’, Hispamérica 32.95: 3-20. Google Scholar

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

Foucault, Michel, 2008 [1967]. ‘Of Other Spaces’ in Heterotopia and the City (London and New York: Routledge), pp. 25-42. Google Scholar

Fresa y chocolate. 1993, dir. Tomas Gutiérrez Alea and Juan Carlos Tabio (ICAIC, IMCINE, SGAE, Tabasco Films, Miramax). Google Scholar

Guerra, Lillian, 2018. Heroes, Martyrs, and Political Messiahs in Revolutionary Cuba, 1946-1958 (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press). Google Scholar

Guevara, Ernesto Che, 2003. Che Guevara Reader: Writings on Politics and Revolution (Melbourne: Ocean Press). Google Scholar

Gutiérrez, Pedro Juan 1998. Trilogía sucia de La Habana (Barcelona: Anagrama). Google Scholar

Hernandez-Reguant, Ariana, 2009. Cuba in the Special Period: Culture and Ideology in the 1990s (New York: Springer). Google Scholar

Horton, Andrew, and Joanna E. Rapf, 2015. A Companion to Film Comedy (Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley). Google Scholar

Jameson, Fredric, 2010. ‘Afterword: A Note on Literary Realism’ in A Concise Companion to Realism (London: Wiley-Blackwell), pp. 279-89. Google Scholar

Kracauer, Siegfried, 2002 [1938]. Orpheus in Paris: Offenbach and the Paris of his Time (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press). Google Scholar

Krol, Natalie, 2013. ‘The Literary City of Havana and the Restoration of Culture in the Writing of Abilio Estévez’, Bulletin of Hispanic Studies 90.7: 835-52. Google Scholar

Lazzara, Michael, and Vicky Unruh (eds), 2009. Telling Ruins in Latin America (New York: Springer). Google Scholar

Limelight. 1952, dir. Charles Chaplin (Charles Chaplin Productions). Google Scholar

Murdoch, Brian, 2002. Fighting Songs and Warring Words: Popular Lyrics of Two World Wars (London and New York: Routledge). Google Scholar

Nemrava, Daniel, Jose Manuel Camacho and Milagros Ezquerro (eds), 2018. Abilio Estévez, entre la tradición y el olvido (Madrid: Editorial Verbum). Google Scholar

Plato, 1992. Republic, trans. George Maximilian Anthony Grube, ed. C. D. C. Reeve (Indianapolis: Hackett). Google Scholar

Ponte, Antonio Jose, 2005. Un arte de hacer ruinas (Mexico City: FCE). Google Scholar

Ponte, Antonio Jose, 2010 [1997]. Las comidas profundas (Rosario: Beatriz Viterbo Editora). Google Scholar

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

Rancière, Jacques, 2011. Mute Speech: Literature, Critical Theory, and Politics (New York: Columbia University Press). Google Scholar

Rancière, Jacques, 2017. The Lost Thread: The Democracy of Modern Fiction (London: Bloomsbury). Google Scholar

Rojas, Rafael, 2009. El estante vacío: literatura y política en Cuba (Barcelona: Anagrama). Google Scholar

Valdés, Zoe, 1995. La nada cotidiana (Barcelona: Salamandra). Google Scholar

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

Whitfield, Esther, 2011. ‘A Literature of Exhaustion: Cuban Writing and the Post-“Special Period”’, Revista de Estudios Hispánicos 45.1: 27-44. 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). Google Scholar

If you have private access to this content, please log in with your username and password here

Details

Author details

BÁEZ, ANA