From Cuba with a Song

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Sun & Moon Press, 1994 - Fiction - 156 pages
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Born in eastern Cuba, Sarduy studied at the University of Havana, and, with Guillermo Cabrera Infante, was one of the few writers involved in the fight against Batista. At an early age he was made publisher of the Lunes de Revolucion, the official organ of the 26th of July Movement. In 1960 he left for Paris.
In Paris Sarduy became the editor of the Latin American collection of Editions du Seuil, and became involved with the Tel Quel group. Among the books he introduced to the French were Gabriel Garcia Marquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude and Lezama Lima's Paradiso. Sarduy himself, meanwhile, published several works including Escrito sobre un cuerpo (Written on a Body), Maitreya, Colibri, La simulacion, Overdose, and Daiquiri, a book of poems that uses Baroque prosody to describe gay sex in explicit terms.
De Donde son los cantantes (From Cuba with a Song) was Sarduy's first truly experimental work. Divided into three sections, each corresponding to the ethnic groups that make up Cuban nationality (Spanish, African, and Chinese), the book explores the disparate elements at work in Latin American culture. Culture, for Sarduy, is a series of radical and often violent displacements and errors. Transvestitism becomes the common denominator as a symbol of transformation (physical and spiritual) and delusion. As Gonzalez Echevarria observes, "In De Donde son los cantantes, the characters look as if they're made up for a carnival that will let loose their deepest and weirdest fantasies. Sarduy's novel exposes the complicity between the novel's conventions and society's patriarchal structure. He denounces the quest for Latin American identity as yet another ideological maneuver by essentially epic novelists who want to strengthen the hold of the mechanisms of authority."

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About the author (1994)

Sarduy has written primarily in exile and under the aegis of contemporary French intellectual and cultural movements. His essays are dense speculations about the complex structure of contemporary culture, a line of inquiry that forms the basis of his highly wrought fiction. He explores individuals and situations as the intersection of multiple levels of cultural formation enacted (unconsciously by the characters) in even the most menial actions and events. Stripped down to their narrative core, Sarduy's novels typically deal with the quotidian, but the quotidian figured in a richly textured language that is as difficult to read as his cultural formations are to understand. Moreover, Sarduy has been especially audacious both in depicting taboo (panerotic sexualism, homosexuality, transvestism, and transgressive "gender bending" in general) and in demonstrating taboo's irrelevance to daily life. In Sarduy's vision, the lines drawn between taboo and transgression, the conventional and the deviant, are not real. In one sense, Sarduy's writing is quintessentially Cuban in themes and tone, while at the same time one of the best examples of Latin American late modernism.

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