Understanding Contemporary Cuba in Visual and Verbal Forms

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This study is a contribution to literary and cultural history. It argues that, as mirrored acts of representation, the visual and verbal yield a common language based on the image defined by Ezra Pound as ‘an intellectual and emotional complex in an instant of time.’ The study refers to other modernist writers such as Joseph Conrad, T. S. Eliot, and Ernest Hemingway, the photography of Henri Cartier-Bresson, and the theories on perception of Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Jean-Paul Sartre, and John Berger. It applies these perspectives to the works of diverse writers who chose Cuba for a subject, finding a rich field for discussion of issues of representation, language and perception. In the concept of the gaze, it argues for the significance of a link between modernist theory and Cuban life represented in a range of works by Cristina Garcia, Edmundo Desnoes, Pico Iyer, Derek Walcott, and others, where nothing is what it seems.


" ... an interdisciplinary approach to contemporary Cuban studies ... This volume will be most useful to those seeking an introduction to sociopolitical issues of contemporary Cuban culture. Summing Up: Recommended. Lower/upper-division undergraduates and graduates students." - CHOICE

“This very personal essay rests on solid methodological references and brings together a travel account and a psycho-philosophical reflection in the shape of a literary work backgrounded by the analysis of fictional works that illustrate the author’s argument. The two salient features of this book are the originality of its approach and the skillful way in which the perspective chosen has been applied to a well-circumscribed sociological and historical reality….The narrative…leads to an introspective journey in the consciences of both the gazer and the gazed. This study of the look therefore takes us right to the core of the subjects’ thinking. At this point the analysis of works of fiction reinforces the narrative, providing it with flesh and substance…. The juxtaposition of this complex structure of in vivo analyses of texts or photographs completed by the memory or the witnessing of ordinary details of everyday life could have been austere in tone or kaleidoscopic because of the variety of facts fictional texts quoted. But the author delightfully surprises us by giving life, color, movement to his discourse, preserving in it the warmth and the life of friendly encounters with ordinary citizens, even if these encounters are at times qualified by the hostility or mistrust of suspicious bureaucrats. Above all, he is able to maintain an observer’s empathy, a necessary quality for the understanding of facts and deeds, that does not undermine his critical judgment, an invaluable tool for the interpretation of the Other’s behavior who, lest we forget, does not always come across in open fashion.” – Professor Maximilien Laroche

Table of Contents

Table of Contents:
Preface by George Lang
1. The Nature of the Look: Garcia’s Dreaming in Cuban
2. The Body as Metaphor: Garcia’s The Agüera Sisters
3. Phenomenology and Photography: Looking Cuban
Portfolio: Havana; Santa Clara; Matanzas; Back to Havana (illustrations)
4. The Body of the Fisher-King: Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea
5. Looking for the Light: Walcott’s Collected Poems and Omeros
6. Carnival in the Waste Land: Iyer’s Cuba and the Night
7. Carnival in Greeneland: Greene’s Our Man in Havana
8. The Gaze of the Unreliable Narrator: Desnoes’s Inconsolable Memories
9. Seeing the Light: Elena and her Friend
Appendices: Nationalism and Consumerism; Declaration on Art and Revolution in Cuba; ‘Understanding Contemporary Cuba in Visual and Verbal Forms’ from a Haitian Perspective by Marie-Hélène Laforest
Bibliography; Index

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