Today in the Americas, Guillermo Cabrera Infante

infanteToday only 4 years ago Guillermo Cabrera Infante, the author of sensational Tres Tristes Tigres passed away.

Guillermo, like Cienfuegos and many others, is a controversial figure (if, in theory, we all agree on the quality of his literary output). He was once a supporter of Fidel Castro, but lived in exile in London since 1965. For some, his criticisms of Castro are heralded; for others he is a traitor to the revolution. In between all of these petty differences – his work.

Cabrera was born in 1929 to a mother and father who were both founding members of the Cuban Communist Party. His own political consciousness may have been awakened in 1956 when Cuban despot Fulgencio Batista closed the Cinemateca de Cuba ending his direction of the Film Library. Shortly following this, he was arrested for publishing a short story with English profanities (he would later be arrested).

After the Revolution in 1959, he was named the director of the Instituto del Cine. He was also editor of a literary magazine Lunes de Revolución, a supplement to the official newspaper (it was abolished in 1961). One can see where this is going. He spent another three years in and out of Cuban social and political life before going into exile in Spain (then London). He said in 1997, “I have not been back (to Cuba) since I left in 1965, and will not until Fidel Castro leaves power.”

Around this time, 1966, he’d released Tres Tristes Tigres, an amazing journey through pre-Revolution Havana. I am reading the Spanish version, and realizing that my grasp of the language is tertiary at best. I have much respect for the English translation I read some time back – his language is immaculate and the story is, yes, a masterpiece. Look for a review in the future.

In 1971, he’d pseudonymously write the cult film Vanishing Point . In 1972, someone he is often compared to, he translated James Joyce’s Dubliners. In 1979, he’d publish La Habana para un Infante Difunto (Infante’s Inferno, in English publication) – a memoir. For someone like me, much of his later work remains only in Spanish, and, as mentioned before, my poor mind can only take so much. For now, his total catalog is lost to me – but there are tons of literary studies on Infante, so one can check them out.

Cabrera was awarded the Premio Miguel de Cervantes in 1997. Mario Vargas Llosa (the 1994 winner) who sat on the jury that awarded the prize, praised Cabrera’s vision, saying that “perhaps his greatest originality was to turn cinema criticism into a new literary genre.” He passed away today, in 2005.


~ by Daniel on February 21, 2009.

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