As part of the 29th edition of the Book Fair, Cuban writer Leonardo Padura’s Past Perfect and Winds of Lent were presented. Afterwards, Ediciones Unión will publish a second volume with Máscaras y Paisaje de otoño
Published: Friday 14 February 2020 | 12:36:15 pm.
By Dailene Dovale de la Cruz email@example.com
Translated and edited by Walter Lippmann for CubaNews.
I woke up today with a book in my hands. I read it when I wake up, while I have breakfast, in the bathroom, before getting dressed, when I walk, inside the bus -sweaty and stress- in the Faculty… I lined it with an old magazine to take care of it among so many adventures. He’s my first literary love at this Book Fair.
It was Sunday, February 9, 2020. I had arrived at the entrance of Morro Cabaña. A friend of mine – curly hair, a skinny, ungainly body – greeted me. That day they were presenting Padura’s book, and I suddenly found a direction for my absent-minded steps.
The Alejo Carpentier room received passionate readers, who arrived hours before the meeting, sat down, lined up in a very long queue to buy the book, waited, got excited. Leonardo Padura presented the first two parts of Tetralogía de La Habana: Pasado Perfecto and Vientos de Cuaresma. Later, Ediciones Unión will publish a second volume with Masks and Autumn Landscape.
What is the Count up to, people ask him in the street. Your Mario Conde has transcended printed paper and is no longer yours, or perhaps he never was at all. For Francisco López Sacha this is the Cuban character of the 20th century, just as Cecilia Valdés was in the 19th century.
Leonardo Padura looked confident, proud of his work and of Conde in particular. The afternoon passed peacefully. And the space, small and warm, was full but in total silence. They listened.
Padura spoke of his need to narrate so as not to go crazy in the early 1990s and how his favorite reader is the Cuban public, the one he thinks about while writing in his native Mantilla.
After the immense queue, of passing and paying – “one book per person”-, of receiving with emotion the dedication, the individual is left in front of the work. Why do so many people follow and adore Mario Conde and Padura? That could be the first classic question.
Padura’s novels burst onto the literary scene, to change some fixed judgments especially regarding the crime novel. They are very Cuban novels, in the author’s own words, without imitating some somewhat predictable patterns that characterized part of the detective novel published in the country during the 1970s (with its exceptions).
See here this Timeline (Scroll down for slide show)
In Past Perfect, for example, the “hero” accumulates defects, vices, incurs a compartment that we could call immoral or that borders on such classification. Nevertheless, it is he who gets up to work – even after a drunken, haggard and exhausted bout. It is he who feels and loves his city, with all its defects… On the obverse side, there are the unpolluted, perfect and false. On them, after the typical characterization (an impeccable man), little dirty rags begin to fall (which in the end are a whole dump).
These novels are social criticism, still valid and necessary. The kind of book that catches you on a Sunday afternoon, and accompanies you during your breakfast/lunchtime meals, when you wake up or after you go to sleep. All that remains is to invite you to let yourself be caught. Conde, a little bit disheveled, will teach you the well-known phrase about deceptive appearances and will make you reflect a little bit on Cuba, Havana and how each one assumes and builds life, in the middle of their circumstances.
By Julio Martínez Molina
February 8, 2020
Translated and edited by Walter Lippmann for CubaNews
Three very recent films on the international scene, two of them exceptional and one of less artistic importance, are interconnected by both the sensitivity and the tenderness with which they have focused the love between two women. Their stories among the most beautiful provided by this thematic plot in the history of the screen. And to affirm it on a slope that has illuminated masterpieces like Carol and wonders like Disobedience is no small thing.
There are certain gay films with male characters who emulate rabbits in their animalistic urge to fornicate at all times, in any space, with anyone, through the vicissitudes of many bodily fluids and little love. On the other hand, these three stories of lesbian romance stand out in contrast, by celebrating the union of a couple with the understanding of an absolute physical and mental communion, one that dispenses with third parties. Then there’s the finding in the person loved the supreme enjoyment in the physical and spiritual, the acceptance of the other with all its burden of differences, their respect as a human being. This does not imply the overflow of eroticism and passion inherent in every bond that also possesses flesh and desire, manifested in the plots of these three filmic pieces bordered by intense sexual passages.
The first two are the Spanish Elisa and Marcela (Isabel Coixet, 2019) and the French Portrait of a Woman on Fire (Céline Sciamma, 2019); the other is the English The Secret of the Bees (Annabel Jankel, 2018). All of them have been directed by women and perhaps that is where the depth of the formation of the six central characters and their human richness lies; fundamentally the complicity in the approach to their sentimental and moral universes.
Co-written and directed by the Catalan Coixet, Elisa and Marcela, is based on true events that took place in primitive Spain, the first homosexual marriage in the history of that country. It occurred in 1901 by two Galician girls, albeit under the premise of a lie: one of them disguised herself as a man. Although it is still valid today, as they could never undo it, in the absence or flight of their spouses.
Teachers Elisa (Natalia de Molina, in another of the notable compositions of a career in ascent) and Marcela (Greta Fernández, the revelation actress of the moment in the Spanish Peninsula) fight at arm’s length to maintain their relationship in a patriarchal scene of ecclesiastical omnipotence. It is still far from being prepared in the psychological and cultural orders to metabolize such a bond. Misunderstood, rejected and ridiculed, the two young women must leave three countries on two continents in order to continue to be together.
The kernel of the story has to be peeled off in the lyricism by which Coixet approaches a love story. It’s shaped, seen and told from the presupposition of that incomparable beauty arising from loving and honoring being the object of veneration and desire. The intimate scenes of the two central characters are carefully beautiful, and they testify to their mime, to the carnality and spirituality of their passion, to the joint desire to please and love each other; in spite of the hatred and ignorance that hangs over both of them. De Molina and Fernandez, especially the first one, were great.
The visual splendor of black and white photography, great in several shots of interiors, enhances the film.
Portrait of a Woman on Fire, is sensory as the three previous works of its director, garments the model gradualness through which Sciamma works the romantic attraction of its protagonists. In the first hour of the film, which is calm in its progression and full of details, references and subtleties (those furtive or frontal glances of Héloïse, the lady to be painted, towards Marianne, the painter!
The two are also in conflict with each other. It was 1770 and the beautiful young bourgeois Héloïse had to be painted, in order to send the canvas to the rich Milanese man who was to marry her. Marianne represents, there is no other, given the time and the conventions, an episode that – although probably the most important thing in her life and never forgotten by her – has to be closed within itself once the lady travels to Italy with her husband.
Noémi Merlant (Marianne) and Adèle Haenel (Héloïse) compose two memorable characterizations. This is decisive in the sense of capturing their characters’ attempt to curb an instantaneous drive and the vehemence with which they accept it and give themselves over to the love affair after realizing how futile the commitment is. The stylization of Portrait of a Woman on Fire is largely due to the observation of the bodies and the close-ups. It’s pure filmic visual poetry that dialogues and transmutes with the pictorial space of the story. Thanks to the mailbox of Claire Mathom, the director of photography.
Despite being weighed down by dramatic and visually mellifluous decisions in the resolution, as well as appeals to misplaced magical realism and less nuance, The Secret of the Bees is also another tender female story. It is the 1950s in a rural Scotland that does not forgive the “lesbian” Dr. Jean (Anna Paquin, in a work of introversion unaccustomed to the actress in recent times), much less its clandestine union with the young worker Lydia (Holliday Grainger). The relationship between the two, despite their desire for anonymity, will be revealed in the air of a closed atmosphere of intolerance.
In director Jankel’s eyes, this love is marked by tenderness. Although the observation of the two women’s intimate space never reaches the degree of visual sophistication of the films of La Coixet and La Sciamma, such scenes are also very beautiful. Perhaps they are less stylized, but not all of them need to be assumed in such a way.
Author: Leslie Díaz Monserrat | firstname.lastname@example.org
February 9, 2020
Translated and edited by Walter Lippmann for CubaNews.
Sometimes life is heavy. Problems sit on your shoulders, like a burden trying to sink you. In those moments, some hang up their hopes, sit in a corner of their own life and cover their face with their hands.
They don’t know it, but right then and there they have lost, because there is no sadder defeat than the one that comes after you stop fighting.
That’s why I admire the women in my family so much. I admire my mother and her integrity, that ability to stand up after losses, after the deepest pain, after so many things.
That is why I am proud of my country. This is because we have in our blood the lineage of men and women who never saw an option in the word surrender. Men and women who continue to fight, even when everyday life becomes complex.
I admire people who do not lie in bed and watch their problems devour them. I admire people who are scared out of their wits every day when they wake up.
In the end, that’s what life is all about, imposing oneself, drawing paths, not letting time go by without doing at least one good deed.
Life has the taste of the kisses you give, the warmth of the hugs, the color of the people who love you.
Life is built on the footprints you leave on others every time you help them.
Life is not about piling up things, awards, titles. There is an infinite pleasure in seasoning nostalgia with irreplaceable memories.
Life rewards those beings who do not bend to boredom, those who every morning inject themselves with high doses of energy and go out into the street and open the door of their car to those who wait at the bus stop, and give a medicine to those who need it and share a cup of coffee even with a stranger.
With these people, you can build a country, a family. These are the indispensable, necessary beings, those who never give up.
By Leyla M. Mancebo Bada, journalism student
Translated and edited by Walter Lippmann for CubaNews.
Isabel and Pedro have been dating for almost a year and say they are very much in love. They both showed up at a party, liked each other and then gradually got to know each other better. However, they do not have the traditional relationship of a couple, they “according to the current times and new trends of love”, as they defined it, they have an open relationship.
Yes, open. It is a relationship in which both can meet other people and its members have the freedom to have sexual or affective relationships with third parties, this without including their partner in them and respecting that the greatest source of affection and commitment is maintained in the closed bond of the couple.
They tell us that they are satisfied with their relationship, “there are no complaints, sometimes a little jealousy appears but it soon passes, and the best thing is the freedom to enjoy and live – in a safe and clear way – our spaces, they add. None of this means that there are less moments that we share together as a couple, on the contrary, explains Isabel.
And it is as the Spanish therapist Antonio Bolinches says, in an open relationship, both members agree that they can have other short or lasting relationships. But it is the primary couple that structures their affective life, and where love resides with a capital letter.
“Today there are many open couples,” explains Pedro. We young people experience a lot, and that lack of commitment is more interesting, it gives you more assurance that you won’t be hurt. Who knows, and one day we will no longer want to follow this trend and we will become official in the most traditional way, but in the meantime, we feel good about it”.[To expand on the topic, listen to the Podcast: Open Couples, Does Love Die?], where JR’s radio show More Than Paper addressed the phenomenon. JR PODCAST: http://www.juventudrebelde.cu/cuba/2017-02-13/jr-podcast-parejas-abiertas-muere-el-amor
This is just one of the many examples of love and relationships that are practiced today. With the great social opening to the free development of sexuality, it is normal that new definitions and ways of exploring human identity and personality exist.
Likewise, with the arrival of iconic dates such as February 14, known as Valentine’s Day or Valentine’s Day, a whole horde of references to love in its maximum expression is unleashed in society. And I wonder if in the post-modern era we can assume that love is only a matter of two?
Both the officialisation of the LGBTIQ+ community and the emergence of new consensual forms of stable relationships have given way to terms such as polyamory or open relationship. Where monogamous canons are abandoned in order to live love fully, according to the affective needs of each individual.
Another very fashionable practice in these times are swinging couples, in which the members of two couples exchange their members for a defined and pre-established time. About this, Mileyda Menéndez Dávila, editor of the Sex Sense section of this newspaper, explains that these are not irresponsible orgies or tasteless youthful discargas (which also proliferate, sadly).
“In addition to the swinging encounters, there are mostly adults with happy marriages, people willing to oxygenate their erotic life without the disparate hypocrisy of infidelity or the renunciation of love cultivated in harmonious coexistence.
“There is a whole code of good conduct in these groups, which includes everything from protection against pregnancy and STIs to the essential reserve in terms of handling private information. One of their passwords is usually inscribed in large letters in the usual meeting places: NO is NO, to make it clear that individual freedom is inviolable in any circumstance” he says.
There are also polyamorous relationships. As the word indicates, it literally refers to many loves and is conditioned by the scientific fact that monogamy is not a question of genetics or inherent in the human condition, but is the product of the historical and social evolution of interpersonal relationships.
In practice, polyamorous relationships are those in which their members have a consensual right to maintain more than one love relationship, and in many cases their members share lifestyles, homes and even assume collectively the raising of children. One of the characteristics of these relationships is the commitment of all parties involved.
Photo: Taken from the Internet
For some, choosing someone exclusively, among so many, to lead an ordinary life is contradictory, because sexual and emotional interest occurs naturally towards more than one person. There are those who say that the main obstacle to enjoying this type of relationship is jealousy, but control of it is a question of acceptance and self-esteem.
All these terms, practices, modernities, or whatever they are called, show us that each individual lives in his own way and has the right to his intellectual and emotional growth, but the openness of the ways of thinking and feeling, helps to achieve empathy with our fellow beings, even when we do not share their practices.
When it comes to love, anything that enriches us without harming others is valid. If loving a person is beautiful and pleasant, and if we also agree to do it in a safe way, then between you and me, there can be one more.
And do young people today still fall in love?
21st Century Couples
By Liudmila Peña Herrera
Translated and edited by Walter Lippmann for CubaNews.
The dark room lights up with every jump of the stage on the big screen. When that happens, even from the back chairs, you can guess the romance. She, with her rebellious curly hair; he, too, with a cascade of hair that spreads across his back.
She whispers something in his ear; he nods without moving his eyes from the big screen. There is a sui generis complicity between these two lovers who whisper so much in their seats. They seem to talk more than they see. They roll the credits, turn on the light and there she is, squeezing her left hand and avoiding him to stumble in the crowd that comes out of the Santiago de Cuba cinema.
Her name is Irela Casañas Hijuelos, she studies Sociology and is not disabled. He is Hugo González Diéguez, future psychologist, and blind due to retinitis pigmentosa as a child. They are holguineros and live the hard 90’s at the Universidad de Oriente. When they can, they escape to the cinema or to a concert at the Sala Dolores.
“At that time Almodóvar’s films were released and she always described them to me.” Hugo speaks as if he were recalling passages from a life he is grateful for. Twenty-two years have passed, his hair is no longer long, but he does not forget Irela’s words in his ear: “They were those other eyes that are needed to enjoy a good work of art”.
When they met, Irela was starting her first year and Hugo was in third. They shared a taste for rock and literature, had common friends and met in the Peña de los Raros.
“The first qualities that attracted me to him were the freshness of his character, his positivity, his spirit,so warlike, but at the same time so ethical, generous, that he faced life with a lot of peace and courage. That’s why I began to admire him and the friendship began to turn into love. Without any kind of prejudice, he did not limit himself to telling me that he loved me. I didn’t limit myself either and let that be born.
He listens to her every word with patience, and assures us that he fell in love with “her sensitivity, her intelligence, her joy, and also her naturalness, her desire for knowledge and life experiences. He could not see her, and yet he saw her.
It wasn’t love at first sight. Logically. Hugo had never even touched her to know what she looked like, but her voice and her personality bewitched him.
“Saint-Exupéry said that the essential is invisible to the eyes; that one can only see well with the heart. For me, above all, love is sympathy, a connection between two souls who find points in common. I liked her voice very much because it was pleasant and feminine, without resorting to subterfuge to please. And it is scientifically proven that smell is very important in attraction. That, and our affinities, were fundamental”.
Irela says no, that she was never afraid, that “it is society, with its hostile views and labels, that tells you, ‘Look, there is fear. You have to know it.” But I wasn’t afraid to let the relationship flow. It was something so natural, so beautiful, that we didn’t question anything and started to grow together, to enjoy each other.
Hugo, on the other hand, was afraid. But his was not the fear of others, of the questioning of others. He was afraid of the possibility of rejection. “When you care for someone very much, as I did for her, that’s what happens. It was very important that she accepted me and felt for me what I was feeling for her.
Irela was always a determined young woman, free as her curls, and judicious, confident. She cared about the acceptance of her own – who wouldn’t? – but that was not what would define the future of her relationship with Hugo.
“There was a little fear in my family, but when they realized that our relationship was very serious, that I was not going to give up, they began to accept my decision. Besides, with Hugo’s character, his authenticity and his noble and positive spirit, it is impossible not to admire him.
And they admired him. Or better yet, they admire him. Hugo is as grateful as he acknowledges his parents for never having been an obstacle: “I was always independent. They saw that step of mine as another sign of my way of being, and they supported me”.
At home, Irela reads you the subtitled films, and describes the visual works when they go to an exhibition. They almost always hang out together, except when she goes to La Mezquita publishing house, where she works, and he enters her office as a clinical psychologist at the Pediatric Hospital.
But what unites them most – besides love – are words. They both write. Their passion for literature is another bond, another link, and it has helped them to drive each other forward.
“I dedicated my first book to Hugo; although I read since I was a child, he helped me rediscover literature and start writing”.
Irela has published two books of poetry and one of essays. Some time ago she was a literary editor at Ediciones La Luz, and her professional experience has been vital to him as well: “Because of her work, she is an implacable critic of my texts when she has to be”.
Hugo published a book of poetry and has another one in the process of being edited. He says that Irela does not praise without reason. He knows her and she inspires him: “She is my fiercest critic and, at the same time, my best muse”.
“Many people have asked me, ‘Are you two brothers? They do not understand how it is possible that, with my disability, I have such a beautiful and intelligent woman. They also ask me if she is blind or visually impaired; but there is no doubt that, in the eyes of society, she is more exposed because she is a woman and because she does not have the disability.
Hugo’s reflection is sharp. For Irela, it certainly seems to have been more difficult: “I have suffered harassment from unknown men who have seen me with him and said unpleasant things to me. But what struck me most, at the beginning of my return to Holguín, was that some people, supposedly very liberal because of their cultural work, said indirect phrases to me that denoted prejudice; although it is important to clarify that we have always received many more signs of friendship than of prejudice”.
“We try to make everyday life not just mean staying alive, but that life is beautiful, diverse. Thanks to the support of his family, we have our own house, in which we share the housework. He, for example, likes coffee because it gives him the exact amount of sugar that we both like. I sometimes go a little overboard,” Irela accepts and laughs happily.
Hugo laughs too. And both confess that they try to read, enjoy an audio-commented film, and be surrounded by friends… but together, always together, without untimely jealousy, because “they show little confidence in themselves. We are not jealous and that security protects us. For me it’s not a problem that she can watch and that I don’t notice. I know what I am worth and how important I am to her.
They walk the Holguin streets talking, laughing, waving… They go hand in hand looking for the shadow, if there is one. They transmit serenity, and also something unusual, difficult to translate with words, which perhaps has to do with their way of understanding life.
“We enrich the routine: I practice yoga and he does the Tibetan rites. Besides literature, he loves football: he’s a Real Madrid fan,” she says, and Hugo adds other ingredients to a love recipe they have been perfecting for more than two decades:
“Irela and I have built a couple without secrets. There is trust, respect and complicity. She’s not just my wife: she’s my partner, my accomplice. We love each other, but we are also friends.
And the confession brings them back to that Santiago cinema of his youth, where she narrated the film to him in a low voice while he felt that love spoke to his ear.