Repetition of History: Circularity and Immanence

As the poet Reina Maria Rodriguez has noted, Flores’s writing has the same labyrinthine structure as the Alamar neighborhood in which it is created (Flores 2003, 8). Alamar may be the symbol that best explains the social architecture of Flores’s poetics and the conception of history that appears in his work. A housing project in East Havana launched in 1971 as one of the Cuban Revolution’s most ambitious social plans, Alamar was conceived as a utopian space that would bring together the different social principles on which the revolution was based, especially the socialization of private property and the chance to obtain housing in exchange for its real value, calculated in terms of labor rather than market value. This project was intended to remedy the shortage of housing for the most needy and promised to be distributed equitably among workers in the microbrigades that were in charge of building them. Intended to be completed in 1981, Alamar was to house 130,000 workers from the area’s industrial centers and was to include day care centers, semiboarding schools, theaters, recreation centers, health centers, and new industrial zones (Schuman 1975, 14). At first, it was thought that the buildings would be four stories high, but later this was increased to twelve stories thanks to improved methods of prefabricated construction. This model was never completed as planned, however, and the Alamar complex became an exemplar of the gray style of Soviet architecture associated with socialist realism.

Like Alamar complex, Flores’s poems have an apparently circular and symmetrical structure in which the lines—like the gray, Soviet-style buildings—impose themselves uniformly and monotonously. We can see this in the poem “Marina,” from his collection Distintos modos de cavar un tuned (Different Ways to Dig a Tunnel): “El galeon (que bordea la costa) no es un galeon aunque parezca un galeon. / El galeon (que bordea la costa) no es un galeon aunque parezca un galeon. / ‘El galeon’ es la replica de un galeon”36 (Flores 2003, 29). In Flores’s imaginary events recur similarly an infinite number of times. This movement of eternal return also takes us back, paradoxically, to the concept of revolution. Hannah Arendt explains that initially the word revolution referred to a recurring movement and not to a transformative turn as we currently understand it. The original Latin meaning of the word was later adopted in the natural sciences through the work of Copernicus, coming to designate the regular, cyclic, and recurring movement of the stars (Arendt 2006, 32). That is, if we apply it in the political sense, the term indicates not a type of renewal but a form of government that repeats itself with the same force as that of the stars following their predetermined path through the sky (ibid.). In other words, this type of government does not entail what we mean today by revolution, a movement generated by a renewing impulse that in turn is related to the idea of freedom. Through preliminary negations and mise en abyme, Flores’s poem suggests that the process of identification is condemned irredeemably to failure given the tautological nature of the reasoning it follows. The referent cannot be distinguished from the signified because the former always leads irrevocably to the latter, to the point of rendering the two indistinguishable.

Many of the poems, however, break the circular structure by introducing a sudden and unexpected change of rhythm, as for example in “El ciclista K [K the Cyclist]”: “El ciclista K, otro de los segregados convertido en exegeta, todo el tiempo posible haciendo auto-stop entre ciudad y campo, o entre campo y montana, sin encontrar solucion al eterno problema, sin encontrar el necesario reposo del cuerpo negroide, otro de los segregados convertido en exegeta, todo el tiempo posible haciendo auto-stop entre ciudad y campo, o entre campo y montana, sin encontrar solucion al eterno problema, sin encontrar el necesario reposo del cuerpo . . . me ha contado que al mirar alla adentro algo raro noto”37 (Flores 2003, 61). This poem, like many of the others in this collection, recounts an immobile locomotion through which maximal energy produces minimal travel. This inefficient economy can also be observed in the poem’s discursiveness and the long time it takes to tell its story. And yet we should not confuse this verbosity with the linguistic profligacy so characteristic of the Latin American baroque, since although the latter tends toward the production of pleasure and jouissance as an alternative to capitalist consumption, Flores’s logorrhea instead draws us into an antieconomy in which expenditure produces a consumption that does not transform. The expenditure that points toward a progressive loss of life by what it generates is interrupted in the poem by its coda: “me ha contado que al mirar alla adentro algo raro noto [he told me that after looking inside he felt something strange].” This final rupture of the monotonous and circular rhythm might make us think that some new source of production exists, but the only thing that is broken is the voice and the rhythm. A pause is produced, a transformation that is also a new path in the cyclist’s routine. Suddenly three actions occur—looking, speaking, and feeling—and these seem to give the subject a certain autonomy. And yet, rather than a way out, these actions signal the entrance into a new labyrinth, another unknown that brings us again to the point of departure or to the end of a road on which we find ourselves already lost.

 
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