This study focuses on the works of Cuban writer Reinaldo Arenas, one of the most prolific and controversial Latin American authors in the second half of the 20th century. (Written in Spanish) Preface Ileana Zendegui's book is a lucid and solidly documented study on Reinaldo Arenas, the most radical and subversive voice of the Cuban narrative of the last 45 years. The author has a keen knowledge of the prevalent approaches to the literary text in contemporary literary criticism, and this allows her to do an original reading of Arenas' texts from a new perspective of the paradigms of Postmodernity, assigning his writings a permanent transgressor dimension, in opposition to the official totalitarian discourse that the Cuban political power sustains. This relevant vision adds a different view to the studies on Reinaldo Arenas, and makes possible to categorize the work of the Cuban narrator as Postmodern and authentically revolutionary.
The author establishes that the critical essays on Cuban literature published in the last decades have omitted all references to the fact that it does not reflect the reality of a Postmodern culture, pointing out, very rightly so, that there is a reason for this omission: "the political project of the Cuban revolution...has nothing in common with the Postmodern sensitivity -heterogeneous, pluralist, relativist, antiauthoritarian." This study demonstrates a sound knowledge of the concepts that define the Postmodern thought, and its applications to Arenas' writings reveal the transcendence of this author in contemporary Cuban narrative. This is an aspect that gives Zendegui's study a fundamental importance in the new approaches to the novelist's works. The texts chosen for the study of Ileana Zendegui offer a forceful and tragic vision of Cuban reality, unmasking the images of terror and alienation, of loneliness and oppression, of madness and death, and the desperate search for freedom, love and true human solidarity.
She combines a special sensitivity for textual reading with a rigorous command and usage of primary and secondary sources, bringing to the reader an understanding of the existential reality of human beings immersed into an ideological model that has made the dehumanization of man and the apocalypse its reason for existing. One of the most important contributions of this work to the study of Cuban narrative is the distinction that for the first time is established between the concept of "lo real maravilloso," with Alejo Carpentier as its most renowned representative, and what the author identifies as "lo irreal espantoso", a vision symbolized by Reinaldo Arenas. On defining Cuban experience as the antipode of Alejo Carpentier's vision, Zendegui demystifies, demythologizes, an escapist perception that has never had any relation with the hallucinating and tragic Cuban reality. The desolation and disintegration of a world rotten by its own contradictions, finds in Arenas' writings a powerful, expansive force, unknown until then in Cuban literature. Ileana Zendegui's study brings this out brilliantly.
A very original contribution of this study deals with the intertextual relation between Reinaldo Arenas' poem El Central, and Jose Marti's El presidio politico. Zendegui affirms that Arenas' text could be considered "an extension, both at the ideological and thematic levels" of that of Marti's. The premises established by Roland Barthes in relation to the concept of "re-presentation", underlined by Jacques Derrida's vision on the act of reading, give Zendegui an opportunity to explore two texts that although separated by time are nonetheless very consequent in their intentionality and ethicity. It is surprising the similarity that even with their established differences the two texts have in common, making the reader aware of the ingrained vocation for freedom -not different from that of Jose Marti-that becomes the sediment of Arenas' writings. Ileana Zendegui's book is a relevant text in the bibliography on Reinaldo Arenas.
It is the result of a profound and meditated study that protrays a creator who, with a transcending humanist and ethical vision, has left as a legacy a powerful sense of commitment in the struggle for affirming the will to be ourselves against the monsters of our time. Professor Reinaldo Sanchez (Ret.) Department of Modern Languages Florida International University