Cleo is a young poet who lives in Havana, a writer under suspicion. State Security forces and the Ministry of Culture believe that her success has been built by “the enemy” as a weapon of destabilization, a CIA invention. On the contrary though, some intellectuals living in exile believe Cleo, with her critical nature, is actually a spy for Cuban intelligence services.
Trapped in this swaying of fantasies, banned and ignored in Cuba, she is the controversial, but successful, author who has had her work translated into several languages and makes those who read her work outside of Cuba shiver.
Drawing from the main character in Domingo de Revolucion (anagrama), some of Wendy Guerra’s (Havana, 1970) personal traits can be seen. “I am interested in the politics of intimacy. Cleo has a piece of my soul in this respect, yes. Like in all my novels, politics come in through the window,” the writer recognizes, who is also the author of books such as Todos se van, Posar desnuda en La Habana and Negra, among others.
The complicated relationship between Cubans and their country is a subject that follows you, why?
It must be because I am still here. Now that we have seen the adjustments that have been made after Fidel Castro’s death, I ask myself whether all of us Cubans don’t have a tiny part of him in our blood, for better or for worse? I believe that we have inoculated the problem. I don’t believe it follows me, it’s something that’s inside of me and it comes out in literature, where you can’t lie. Literature is a blood test.
In your novel, you speak of a writer who won a poetry competition, is any resemblance to reality purely coincidental?
Yes, but that’s not my case. In my novel, I’m talking about an excessive prize and a lot of money. My experience was different. When I won my first prize from the University of Havana, with my poetry book “Platea oscura”, I was 14 years old and I shared it with Alex Fleites, a brilliant poet, journalist and human being. Then there were those who said that it was my mother who wrote my poems; that when she died, they thought Garcia Marquez or Eliseo Alberto wrote my books. I had a lot of credibility issues with the exile community, especially in Mexico.
They thought that I had been trained by Cuban State Security. These are confusing mental processes or resources that only take place in a Cuban person’s mind, someone who has lived under this closed-off system. In order to protect myself from these attacks, I used them to write about Cleo, my protagonist.
In Domingo de Revolucion, you speak about politics but from a personal standpoint.
I am interested in the politics of intimacy. Cleo has a piece of my soul in this respect, yes. Like in all my novels, politics come in through the window. Even if you close the house, reality is more overbearing. Truth, pain and suspicion always come in through the window.
The character of the maid comes back, in this sense, puzzled by the ambiguity that surrounds her.
Yes, that’s right, because she doesn’t know whether it will save her or watch over her. My relationship with Cuba is the same, I don’t know whether it will save me or drown me, but the price that Cleo and I paid is the same, we stay to defend the things that are in our blood and aren’t foreign to us. That’s my politics.
At the beginning, you mentioned that Cuba has a part of Fidel inside; in Mexico, we say that we all carry a part of the PRI with us too. To what extent are leaders the reflection of their society?
You resemble your country, and the more you reject it, the more you resemble it. If I were to reject my relationship with Cuba, I’d be rejecting a truth just like Cuba rejects many of its unspoken truths. I share the untamed, solitary and independent nature with my country. I resemble it in its best and worst. Of course, now Cuba is becoming more and more distanced from its children and is beginning to have more abnormal reactions. We speak less and less about the system that our parents and grandparents wanted to create. Cuba begins to resemble itself and we begin to leave or write these kinds of books. Utopian ideas and the Left have abandoned us.
Without Fidel Castro, how will Cuban literature reconfigure itself?
Fidel is inoculated into the fiber of this country. The Cuban Revolution is a reality and it’s hard to escape.