The Poetics of Samizdats

The samizdat of Proyecto Diaspora(s), Diaspora(s) Documentos (1997-2002), like many of the works that I examine in this book, was critical of state ideology, and it happened to be marginally produced, poorly distributed, and infrequently read. Its marginality was not social or economic but solely ideological; in this regard, apostasy would be a better term for its specific ideological position. That is, this movement was composed of an unorthodox generation wanting to change or challenge revolutionary parameters, a fact that can be seen by their decision to struggle with cultural institutions and open up cultural spaces wherein they might develop their programs. In one way or another, all the authors that this book explores were heretical, and therefore prone to censorship or rejection. Most of the times, direct censure was not an option, because cultural institutions such as UNEAC, Casa de las Americas, ICAIC, and so on would support the artist vis-a-vis the Ministry of Culture, finally publishing and distributing the work. Proyecto Diaspora(s) had a very tense and ultimately impossible relationship with cultural institutions, and this is what prompted them to go underground.

The poets who formed Proyecto Paideia and Proyecto Diaspora(s), two of the movements that this book explores, went even farther. Their work questioned revolutionary power as well as the poetics articulating state ideology. More important, as I will explain later, their work reveals the traumas that the dreamlike appearance of revolutionary rhetoric was occluding. This dreamlike appearance of revolutionary discourse appeared in the poetics of Proyecto Diaspora(s) as what Victor Fowler has termed “una enunciacion romantica inversa [an inverted romantic enunciation]” (Fowler 1999, 14). For Fowler this poetic enunciation recognizes “un ethos politico que le niega a la nacion como destino ideologico [a political ethos that denies a historical destiny to the country].” What has been actually occluded—such is my thesis—is the real antagonism between reality and utopian thought. How did this utopia fail and why did it fail? That is what is at stake in these works—as well as in the nation as a whole—but it also happens to frame itself as that which cannot be confronted directly (and therefore approaches the Real in Lacanian terms). In these works the Real, in this Lacanian sense, is articulated through the figure of the New Man and the way in which the works that I have studied reveal the transformation of this discursive mythology. The critical attitude of these works toward totalitarian politics has led Morejon Arnaiz to argue that they are still embedded in the dialectics of revolutionary literature: “Doesn’t critically placing the literate citizen in a totalitarian space (not through topics . . . , but through writing itself) continue to be a rhetorical exercise that maintains poetry as a question of ‘engagement,’ in fact the great rhetorical nucleus of Cuban poetry since 1959?” (39).

If it is true, as Fowler and Morejon Arnaiz claim, that this movement is simply the antithesis of revolutionary poetics, and that it has not been able to move outside of this dialectic, how can one read their gesture to stay at the margins of the political by representing an ironic poetics of pathos ?

These writers worked in precariousness. I do not mean that they aimed at a material precariousness, but rather, at a poetic precariousness reflecting the problematic nature of poetic representation. Words are considered insufficient means to represent the ontological crisis of ideology: “In other regions of the world this type of crisis of the word (language/discourse) is not a new matter; in Cuba, thirty years after 1959, it is, and very symptomatically. Crises unfold or begin to be recognized as such only when words have proved their impotence” (Sanchez Aguilera 1993, 60). These movements also thematize the regime’s own cultural dearth. Ana Belen Martin Sevillano argues, for example, that Diaspora(s) is against the concept of popular culture promoted by the revolution: “Diaspora(s) displays an elitist understanding of literary activity that can be explained as a reaction to the cultural populism imposed by the revolution” (Martin Sevillano 2008, 99).

As a result of a self-imposed alienation from contemporary Cuban culture, literature for these young authors became cosmopolitan and stretched the boundaries of the nation. For once, the nation was not opening outward to external influences, nor was it extending its territory to different geographical spaces through exile and diaspora; rather, there was a movement coming from inside the nation that resulted in the implosion of the revolutionary literary canon. Intellectuals themselves sought new ideological sources, and remarkably, they did not only come from the Peninsula, but also from the United States and Europe.

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