The Revival of Lezama by the Children of the Revolution

How did the children of the revolution respond to Lezama’s official revival? At the beginning of the eighties, the members of Diaspora(s) and many other intellectuals of their generation rediscovered Lezama’s poetics. Lezama’s language was a model for many of these young writers. The poets associated with Diaspora(s) maintained an oedipal attitude toward Lezama, adopting his poetics at the beginning of their careers and later rejecting them. (As a matter of fact, by the time the first issue of Diaspora(s) appeared, the founders of Diaspora(s) had already condemned Lezama’s poetics of history.) Lezama’s baroque language expressed a more complex aesthetic and ideological imaginary than did the realism of conversationalist poetics. Lezama thus represented an alternative to the watchful gaze of the prior generation’s paternal figures, who disparaged Lezama’s “apolitical” work (Marques de Armas 1997, 20).

Diaspora(s) argued that the official reading of Lezama had obliterated the works that did not serve the state’s ideological purposes.10 In October 1994, one year after Diaspora(s) was created, Rolando Sanchez Mejias and Pedro Marques de Armas gave two papers at the roundtable “Ongenes and Its Influences on New Writers” at a symposium about the journal organized by Casa de las Americas. Their interventions disrupted the ideological approach of the event and provoked an argument with other participants and bitter comments by Miguel Barnet, head of Casa de las Americas. From then on, Diaspora(s) was barred from freely participating in cultural events (interview with Marques de Armas 2010).11 The two papers Sanchez Mejias and Marques de Armas read were subsequently published in Diaspora(s).

At the beginning of the nineties, Diaspora(s)’s poets also began to be critical of the messianic aspects of Lezama’s poetic theories about the telos of

History. They argued that this ideological aspect of Lezama’s work was clear in essays he had written at the onset of the revolution. Indeed, in “A partir de la poesia” he interpreted the Cuban Revolution as a messianic force that brought the word that would save the nation: “La revolucion cubana significa que todos los conjuros negativos han sido decapitados. . . . El hombre que muere en la imagen, gana la sobreabundancia de la resurreccion (Lezama 1975, 840).12 Lezama argued that there was a coincidence between the last “imagined era,” its endless possibility in the Cuban Revolution, and the revolution’s poetic hypostasis. In other words, the power of poesis is not only poetic but historical. For Lezama, the revolution was the result of a confluence between the material act and the idea that imagined it. This was the dialectical allegory whose telos was the Cuban Revolution and the essentialist idea that Diaspora(s) poets criticized, arguing that, “Aquello que para Lezama y Vitier fue un corte o fulminacion o consecuencias de la Historia, fue para otros hombres el dolor de la historia en sus propios cuerpos [What Lezama and Vitier saw as a cutting or annihilation or consequence of History was for others the pain of history in their own bodies]” (Sanchez Mejias 1997, 19).

 
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