Alfredo Pérez Muñoz, a deep sea diver

Ernesto Santana (Rialta) on Cuban-born writer Alfredo Pérez Muñoz (1963-2022) :

Alfredo Pérez Muñoz can no longer answer questions, and whoever wants to continue talking to him must dialogue with his texts, which, like any legacy of a true creator, will not offer a sole answer, but rather an unattainable question—one that never stops changing.

A short text by Alfredo Pérez Muñoz (1963-2022) describes a stain at the bottom of a glass – “rather, the space left by the magnesium salts on the glass” – something similar to a man leaning over a shore: “the truth is that that guy could be me, standing at the edge of the world, looking at a metaphysical bush.”

The writer liked those polymorphic images, those motifs that advance like ramifications between different texts. No wonder the book where we read that text is called Rizoma (Editorial Primigenios, 2022). And, as in a strange bifurcation of his figure or meaning, Pérez Muñoz moved through his writing, mutating from stain to letter of fire and appearing through disappearing.

When he died suddenly in October 2022, the collection of short pieces Rizoma and the collection of poems El libro perdido de Jorge  (Editorial Dos Islas, 2022) had been published shortly before in Miami. Apparently, the writer did not yet have any copies in hand.

Born in Havana in 1963, Alfredo had gone to live as a child with his family in Manzanillo, facing the Gulf of Guacanayabo. There—in what by then had ceased to be the influential city of the past—he began to write, joined the Da Capo literary group, and published the first of his few texts that appeared in Cuba, a country that was no longer the shadow of what was once.

Publishers did not accept the books of this “weird” and “apathetic” man who distanced himself from the local literary scene, and who refused to belong to the Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba (UNEAC), even though that meant almost his non-existence as a creator.

He was passionate about the visual arts, as well as letters, and the hybrid worlds of immediacy and strangeness. In the midst of the increasingly decrepit reality of his country and his city, Pérez Muñoz lived a difficult existence that he alleviated by drinking what he could. He was a guardian at something as impossible as a Youth Computer Club when he suffered a fatal stroke compounded by other health complications and the hardships he faced.

[. . .] His fertile conciseness is demonstrated, very much in tune with the sensitivity of his poems, in the miniatures of Rizoma, which opens with Deleuze and Guattari’s definition of the well-known concept that uses this botanical form as a descriptive model. It is followed by a pertinent quote by poet Ángel Escobar: “I wrote in the middle of [noisy] commotion. / Perhaps I contributed to increase it.”

Here the prose writer without delusion mixes the fantastic fable with the intimate vignette, scientific and technological musings with poetic prose and metaphysical prospecting, and he does it with a light step, without crushing his obsessions, but without sparing the vertigo of his hunts.

The pages of this book take us through the ordinary absurdity and the imperceptibly obvious, always with the imminence of a door that may be opened to an “other side,” which awaits at almost in every corner of the paragraphs.

And the last text – which begins by placing the narrator in a “hut and in the middle of the mountain, sitting in a box,” and ends by stating that he has “indispensable solitude, indispensable eternity” – clearly connects with the collection of poems. In a place like this where nothing is expected, all that remains is to look out into the night and look at the lights in a city devoid of meaning.

Jorge’s lost book, although it is poetry, uses the old narrative resource of the found manuscript that gives a tinge of reality to fiction. And this is not surprising, because, in a certain way, the collection of poems delineates a story, a kind of fragmented chronicle of the ordinary life of a marginal poet in a marginal society. The humble epic of bitter lyricism that leaves behind an itinerant bard.

The chronicler of the verses does not stop. The prophet of the roads, however, does not summon the people here in the squares or sing his stories from town to town. But he is not a native minstrel in Cuban lands, nor is he the typical wandering poet of all literatures.

[. . .] Jorge’s verses” keep one last transparency: we have in our hands a book with the poems of a secret troubadour, a book that had been lost. It is the old and desperate hope that literature will save us.

Jorge does not live “in a deep forest” like Ryokan, the Japanese Zen monk and poet, but deep in the human forest, secretly chanting and reading aloud to make himself real. His book is a kind of humble heroic expression, a minimalist epic of the poet-hero. But what he really sings is not one story, but two.

Duplications and dualities abound in this “recovered manuscript”: the others and I, poet and world, reality and fiction, author and work, water and rum, writer and alter ego, Alfredo and Jorge.

[. . .] The dualities are reflected, the self in the others, Alfredo and Jorge, the parties look at each other, they come together in a story. Cuba and Alfredo are two sides of the same fatal sequence. Lyrical fiction and vast reality on the same stage.

[. . .] Among the many texts left by Pérez Muñoz, there is one called Lápida [Headstone]: “It is a rest not to be here / it is a great rest not to be anywhere / to be (if possible) essence without conscience / without suffering and without searches.”

Excerpts translated by Ivette Romero. For full article (in Spanish), see

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