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From Cuba with a Song

Severo Sarduy

Translated from the Spanish by Suzanne Jill Levine

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Severo Sarduy
From Cuba with a Song
Series No.: SMC 052
ISBN: 1-55713-158-9, Pages: 157
Cuban Literature, Fiction

A Sun & Moon title.

* * *

Born in eastern Cuba, Sarduy studied at the University of Havana, and, with Guillermo Cabrera Infante, was one of the few writers involved in the fight against Batista. At an early age he was made publisher of the Lunes de Revolución, the official organ of the 26th of July Movement. In 1960 he left for Paris.

In Paris Sarduy became the editor of the Latin American collection of Editions du Seuil, and became involved with the Tel Quel group. Among the books he introduced to the French were Gabriel García Márquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude and Lezama Lima's Paradiso. Sarduy himself, meanwhile, published several works including Escrito sobre un cuerpo (Written on a Body), Maitreya, Colibri, La simulación, Overdose, and Daiquiri, a book of poems that uses Baroque prosody to describe gay sex in explicit terms.

De Donde son los cantantes (From Cuba with a Song) was Sarduy's first truly experimental work. Divided into three sections, each corresponding to the ethnic groups that make up Cuban nationality (Spanish, African, and Chinese), the book explores the disparate elements at work in Latin American culture. Culture, for Sarduy, is a series of radical and often violent displacements and errors. Transvestitism becomes the common denominator as a symbol of transformation (physical and spiritual) and delusion. As González Echevarría observes, "In De Donde son los cantantes, the characters look as if they're made up for a carnival that will let loose their deepest and weirdest fantasies. Sarduy's novel exposes the complicity between the novel's conventions and society's patriarchal structure. He denounces the quest for Latin American identity as yet another ideological maneuver by essentially epic novelists who want to strengthen the hold of the mechanisms of authority."

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