New Book: Gustavo Pérez Firmat’s “Saber de ausencia”

Gustavo Pérez Firmat’s Saber de ausencia: Lecturas de poetas cubanos (y algo más) [which may be translated as Knowing about Absence: Readings of Cuban Poets (and something more)] was published by Editorial Renacimiento in January 2022.

Description: Halfway between personal reflection and academic discourse, between the here of exile and the there of the distant homeland, Saber de ausencia traces an itinerary that starts from José Martí’s thought on exile to venture into the work of some of the most relevant contemporary Cuban poets: Eliseo Diego, Heberto Padilla, Dulce María Loynaz, Eugenio Florit, José Ángel Buesa, Orlando González Esteva, and Ricardo Pau-Llosa (the latter a Cuban poet who writes in English). Among the authors studied there is even a “manisero” Wallace Stevens who reveals unusual facets of the great American poet. Everything fits and nothing is superfluous in this “knowledge of absence” practiced by the author, a Cuban without Cuba, whose innovative readings demonstrate a robust knowledge of absence, its experiences and consequences, as well as the dividend of wisdom that absence makes possible. As Pérez Firmat points out, “distance is anxiety, but it is also gain.”

Gustavo Pérez Firmat is David Feinson Professor in the Humanities at Columbia University. Pérez Firmat has been the recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the American Council of Learned Societies, the Mellon Foundation, and the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. His books of literary or cultural criticism include: Idle Fictions (1982; rev. ed. 1993), Literature and Liminality (1986); Do the Americas Have a Common Literature (editor, 1990); The Cuban Condition (1989; rpt. 2006); Life on the Hyphen (1994; rev.ed. 2012); My Own Private Cuba (1999); Cincuenta lecciones de exilio y desexilio (2000; 2016); Vidas en vilo, 2000, 2015); Tongue Ties (2003); The Havana Habit (2010); A Cuban in Mayberry (2014). He is a coeditor of the Norton Anthology of Latino Literature (2010). He has also published several collections of poetry in English and Spanish–Carolina Cuban (1987); Equivocaciones (1989); Bilingual Blues (1995); Scar Tissue (2005); The Last Exile (2016); Sin lengua, deslenguado (2017), Viejo Verde (2019)—a novel, Anything but Love (2000); and a memoir, Next Year in Cuba (1995; rev. ed. 2000; rpt. 2005; Spanish version: El año que viene estamos en Cuba, 1997). Next Year in Cuba was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in non-fiction; Life on the Hyphen was awarded the Eugene M. Kayden University Press National Book Award for 1994 and received Honorable Mention in the Modern Language Association’s Katherine Singer Kovacs Prize and the Latin American Studies Association’s Bryce Wood Book Award. In 1995, Pérez Firmat was named Duke University Scholar/Teacher of the Year, Duke University’s highest award for teaching excellence. In 1997 Newsweek included him among “100 Americans to watch for the 21st century” and Hispanic Business Magazine selected him as one of the “100 most influential Hispanics” in the United States. In 2004 Pérez Firmat was named one of New York’s thirty “outstanding Latinos” by El Diario La Prensa. In 2005 he was selected Educator of the Year by the National Association of Cuban American Educators. Pérez Firmat has been featured in the documentary CubAmerican and in the 2013 PBS series Latino Americans.

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