Cuban novelist Leonardo Padura Fuentes writes in Havana Times about Virgilio Piñera (August 4, 1912 – October 18, 1979), a fellow Cuban author, playwright, poet, short-story writer, and essayist.
Piñera was a great renovator and modernizer of Cuban theater, one of its most revealing poets and an important figure among the nation’s most significant and daring narrators.
To begin to understand and read him, it should be kept in mind what he wrote about himself in an insurmountable and provocative self-portrait:
“As soon as I was old enough, I demanded thought be translated into something more than spit spraying or arm waving; I found three fairly dirty qualities of which I would never be able to clean myself: I learned that I was poor, that I was homosexual, and that I liked art.
“The first because one fine day they told us that ‘nothing could be found for lunch.’ The second because, also one fine day, I felt a wave of blushing cross my face when discovering, throbbing under his pants, the swollen organ of one of my numerous uncles. The third because, on an equally fine day, I heard my very fat cousin convulsively griping a glass in her hand singing the toast of ‘La Traviata.’”
Perhaps Virgilio Piñera’s greatest cultural merit was his vital and artistic iconoclasm. The rule-breaker, the essential provocateur, a searcher for novel ways of expression and structure, conceptually diverse and challenging, his work today conserves aesthetic greatness, while his life has become the best representation of the torture of marginalization and silence into which the writer was driven.
This fate was his and a significant part of the country’s intellectuals, subjected to the orthodoxy and exclusionary methods of Cuban cultural prescriptions of the 1970s. In that marginalization – “civil death” as it has been called – he spent the last 10 years of his existence, until he died physically.
However, the despairing circumstances and disrespect a part, his artistic work itself continues to be the best way to understand his significance for the culture of the island and the literature of the language.
For the complete essay go to http://www.havanatimes.org/?p=11020