I have visited the Spanish Mediterranean but Cannes is, for me, a futuristic city approximated by its famous international film festival. The 66th ceremony closed with awards presented by Steven Spielberg, president of the jury that awarded the Grand Prix to the film Inside Llewyn Davis, from the Coen brothers, and the Palm D’or to The Life of Adele, from director Abdellatif Kechiche—a Tunisian living in France. Mexican Amat Escalante was regaled as best director and the awards for best actor and actress went to Berenice Bejo of The Past, and Bruce Dern (Nebraska) followed closely by the memorable Michael Douglas, largely applauded for his convincing portrayal of Liberace in Behind the Candelabra.
Before the Cannes Jury vote, as controversial as always, the name of the coastal Southern France city resounded in European television and newspapers by stealing the jewel that should have lit the female stars. They compensated the loss with their elegant and costly dresses on the red carpet inhabited by reporters and tourists; in addition to the critics’ claims, actors, directors, and producers, as attentive to the impact of their work as they are to the leading ladies’ glamour.
Judging from the critics and the comments posted on Twitter, Facebook and other social media, the film The Life of Adele, interpreted by French actresses Adéle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux, could have taken the grand prize. According to Carlos Boyeros, this film “is an intimate prodigy that searches for art for three hours in the feelings of a woman whom we follow throughout a decade of her existence…” Others, without ignoring the value of the piece, realize that the theme as well as the excessive sex scenes between the women is simply more of the same and harmonizes with the increasing protagonism of gays in Europe.
Among the numerous films presented and recognized in Cannes were the Japanese Like Father Like Son, directed by Herokaza-Kore-eda and The Past, from the Iranian filmaker Asghar Farhadi, author of the celebrated A Separation.
Translated by: Alexis Rhyner
27 May 2013
Yesterday the Cuban poet Rafael Alcides Perez turned 80; he remains in Havana as a poor, strong and gentle grandfather; lucid amid the social madness and literary closure, oblivious to personal egos and tribal tantrums. He knew fame and tasted applause from his younger years, when he joined in the swarm of those poets of the intimate and innovative generation of the ’50s, who transitioned from the estrangement and apathy during the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista to the euphoria by the Revolution led by Fidel Castro, which shook the foundations of the nation and imposed exile and silence.
Rafael Alcides leaves a lasting impression on those who know him personally. Admiration grows if you read his poems before hearing his voice booming with rhythm. The poet seduces his listeners with the cascading flow of his images and metaphors, resonant and profound like the simplicity that animates his actions.
He, who for decades has declined to publish in Cuba, knows that his name carries weight in the memory of his book and some magazines that collect his most transcendent verses. The author of Thanked Like a Dog was excommunicated from the official poetry sanctuary and sanctified by writers and poetry lovers. His name barely circulates on the island, where his books are a rarity in antiquarian portals, personal libraries and catalogs of the National Library.
From Spain I join the tribute paid by the intimates of the octogenarian writer, still engaged in the creative task. Within a few years, when some publisher takes on the rescue of his poetry and novels, new readers will have in their hands, “Mountain Smoke,” “Gypsy,” “Travel Notebook,” “The Wooden Leg,” “Memories of the Future,” “Night in Memory,” “And they die, and they return, and they die,” as well as “Nobody” — his penultimate poem collection — and the controversial stories, “Contracastro,” and “The Return of the Dead.”
10 June 2013
From May 29th until today I could not open VocesCubanas.com, the alternative platform that contains my blog Island Anchor. As I thought the “closure” could be only be in the Spanish Levante — I live in the province of Castellón, in the community of Valencia — I called followers of my posts living in Zaragoza, Madrid, Canary Islands, but none could access “Cuban Voices” nor enter my blog, not even from Google by searching on the titles of the last texts.
Coincidentally, Wednesday May 29 was the last day of Yoani Sanchez’s stay in Madrid, where she delivered a speech at the ceremony for the Ortega and Gasett awards, given by the newspaper El Pais; the next day she was received in Havana by family and friends while the Spanish newspaper reproduced her words and pictures with former President Felipe González and other figures of the Spanish Socialist Worker’s Party (PSOE) and the media.
No one should be ready to think that the closure of the Voces Cubanas portal in Spain was a way to lessen the impact of her words and to annul any commentary on her extensive tour of Americanand European countries. But who benefits from the silence of censorship? Who gave the order to disconnect? Where and by whom was it executed? The answer points to the officials who monitor the news in the Cuba Embassy in Madrid and to the Island regime’s network of consulates in the Iberian Peninsula.
It is not the classical theory of conspiracy; the Castro regime tactic is very old and the order stands, the diplomats-cum-State-Security-Agents executed it based on a Guide to events that demystifies the Havana government’s propaganda. They simply overload the networks, hack pages, multiply the trash emails against some, and “take the offensive” against others, even in media such as El Pais. The rest is up to time and the naive who are silent before the long arm of censorship.
4 June 2013
On September 2, 2011 I published the “SOS for Angel Santiesteban” in Cubanet, when despite his having been awarded multiple prizes by the regime itself, the Cuban government’s own political police were harassing the writer. In late 2012 Angel was sentenced to five years imprisonment after a show trial in which his ex-wife was used as a spearhead against him. I will not refer to details of the case because they are still circulating in various writings and in Santiesteban’s blog, but I will offer my personal impressions of this word artist.
Before personally coming to know the author of “Dreams of a Summer Day,” “The Children Nobody Wanted,” “Blessed are Those Who Mourn,” and “South: Latitude 13,” I read his books and listened to several anecdotes that reflected his temperament and satirizes the political situation in Cuba. It’s hard to forget some of the characters of his stories about prison and Cuba’s intervention in the wars of Africa. Perhaps the masterful design of these alienated beings who gallop through the pages of his works are the real cause of humiliating trial that attempted to annul his rebellion and the voice of this audacious man without masks.
As my son was Angel Santiesteban’s lawyer, I had the privilege of welcoming him to my home in Havana and chatting with him over a glass of water — Angel does not drink rum or coffee. We talked about literature and his family experience. Only once, when asked by one of his characters, did he reveal the traumatic imprint of his brief stay in prison before the age of 20, after being arrested on the northern coast while saying goodbye to a relative who tried to leave the island on a raft.
I met Santiesteban several times at the house of the blogger Yoani Sánchez and at cultural gatherings organized at the residence of the physicist Antonio Rodiles, leader of the Estado de Sats program. I remember that Angel barely took part in those debates and almost always sat at the end of the hall, far from poses and prominence poses but friendly with anyone who approached him. In the end he left in his car with 4 or 5 people whom he drove to, or closer to, their homes.
The last time we met was in front of the police station at Infanta and Manglar, next to the “Fame and Applause” building, where fifty opponents demanded the release of Antonio Rodiles, arrested after the funeral of Oswaldo Paya Sardinas, who died in suspicious accident. We chatted there while Wilfredo Vallin and Reinaldo Escobar tried to negotiate with the Head of the Station, also surrounded by a gang of criminals who awaited orders from State Security officials to kick and drag opponents.
The judicial farce against Ángel Santiesteban reminds me of the famous narrator Reinaldo Arenas and the poets Heberto Padilla — imprisoned in 1971 — and Raul Rivero, sentenced in 2003, victims of a dictatorship that punishes free expression and promotes quietism and the complicit silence of the intellectuals.
19 May 2013
If in every dream the dreamer is the author of the fable that he lives while he sleeps, in every journey the traveller interacts with his own emotions, the landscape, some passengers and with cities that evoke events and personalities of the past that enrich his memory and the pleasure of travelling.
In my case, travelling through Spain, land of my father, grandparents, siblings, and wife; it is more than just a way of doing provincial tourism, I’m entering an amphitheater of dreams with geography as auditorium, the train or bus as a form of set design, and the people travelling or transiting are the authors.
The name Sagunto takes us back to Hannibal’s audacity, the Cartaginian General that turned the ancient Iberia in an operations base to dominate the Mediterranean and left Sagunto to occupy Rome, whose inhabitants persecuted the Carthaginians and settled in the Iberian peninsula.
Turned into a Roman province like the neighboring Tarragona, Sagunto was more important than Valencia, the current provincial and autonomous capital of which it was subject. Besides the huge Roman castle by the railroad tracks, other monuments recall events and legends that inscribe Sagunto into Spanish history, among this the military uprising of General Arsenio Martinez Campos, considered “the restorer of spanish monarchy” and “Cuba’s pacifier,” in 1875 and 1878 respectively.
As Sagunto to Zaragoza is almost 180 miles, the traveler crosses the villages that look like picture postcards and is engrossed in orange groves, vineyards, olive trees, pines, poplars, leafless phantasmagoric trees, windmills in the mountains and tunnels that link fields, farmhouses and industrial silos that precede cities with stops. Segorbe, Jérica, Barracas, Sarrión, the celebrated Teruel — Mozarabic modernist capital of ham — Monreal del Campo, Caminreal, Calamocha, Cariñena and others that weave a map of movement adorned at times with snow.
Zaragoza, the fifth largest city in Spain after Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia and Sevilla, impresses the newcomer with its gigantic modern railway and bus station. Upon leaving we expect the magical encounter with the banks of the Ebro, fertilized in January by the abundance of rain that threatens to overwhelm the bridges.
The Ebro valley with its desert landscape and cold winds in the urban layout of the ancient kingdom of Aragon, natural scenario of Iberian people, Celts, Romans, Goths and Arabs. Around the current Zaragoza — urban and administrative center of the autonomous community of Aragon — are circled dozens of villages in two provincial capitals: Teruel and Huesca. A short distance away are Navarre and France in the Pyrenees and the cities of Castilla la Mancha, Catalonia and Castellon.
When touring Zaragoza we are amazed by the beauty of the Plaza and the Basilica of Pilar, La Seo Cathedral, the Roman stone bridge, the iron bridge of the nineteenth century, the Aljafería — the Moorish palace of joy — as well as the Plaza of the Bulls, the Imprente Blasca andstatues of transcendent characters like General Parafox, the heroine Agustina de Aragon, the painter Goya, the writer Baltasar Gracian, Dr. Ramon y Cajal,the filmmaker Luis Buñuel and the Cuban intellectual and patriot José Martí, who lived and studied in the city of Zaragoza.
31 January 2013
With the onset of spring the name and the paintings of Salvador Dalí once again resonated in Spain, as the Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid located has mounted a retrospective of 200 of his paintings and drawings, visited in less than a month by more than 50,000 people and reviewed by dozens of experts in various communication media in Madrid, Barcelona, Paris and other cities.
The show comes from the Parisian Pompidou Art Museum and had the cooperation of the Dalí Foundation, one of the most profitable in Europe. The “prophet of modernity” includes 104 pieces from the thirties confirming the precocious genius of the enigmatic and provocative “King of Surrealism”, who also dabbled in film, especially with his compatriot Luis Buñuel, with the Walt Disney studios and with Alfred Hitchcock.
According to the media, the “eccentric and immeasurable” character that Dalí built (Figueres, 1904-1989), is knocked out by his creative work. Alongside Picasso and Miró, Dalí made up the luxury triad of visual arts of Spain and is one of the icons of the universal art of the twentieth century.
15 May 2013
To celebrate World Book Day — and the Castilian language — on 23 April, the online edition of the daily El Pais has presented to readers in Latin America with Voces para un Cervantes (Voices for a Cervantes) to download on computers and ebook tablets. The collection “brings together interviews that this newspaper has undertaken with the 37 Spanish-speaking writers who have obtained the highest award in Spanish letters since 1976,” when the Spanish poet Jorge Guillén first received the award.
In each of the interviews we hear the voice of the winners, transformed into contemporary classics of literary creation, although “Some are hurried interviews, made the same day of the Cervantes award where the winners express their joy and surprise. Others, more thoroughly, occurred before or after the award ceremony on April 23.”
All of the award-winning writers are in Voices for a Cervantes, from representatives of the legendary Spanish Generation of 27 — Jorge Guillen, Damaso Alonso, Gerardo Diego and Rafael Alberti — to José Manuel Caballero Bonald, who received it days earlier, through the memorable Jorge Luis Borges and other travelers in Latin letters such as Alejo Carpentier, Octavio Paz, Ernesto Sábato, Augusto Roa Bastos, Carlos Fuentes, Adolfo Bioy Casares, Guillermo Cabrera Infante, Dulce María Loynaz, Juan Gelman, Mario Vargas Llosa, José E. Pacheco, Gonzalo Rojas, Álvaro Mutis, Sergio Pitol, Nicanor Parra, Jorge and Jorge Edwards.
In the El Pais interviews these masterful voices of the New World alternate with the grand Hispanic artists such as María Zambrano, Luís Rosales, José Hierro, Antonio Buero Vallejo, Antonio Gamoneda, Francisco Umbral, Miguel Delibes, Rafael Sánchez Ferlosio, Ana María Matute, Camilo José Cela, José García Nieto, Gonzalo Torrente Ballester, Francisco Ayala, José Jiménez Lozano, Juan Marsé y el citado José Manuel Caballero Bonald.
As clarifies in El Pais, the prize for Literature in the Spanish Language of Miguel de Cervantes was convened by the Ministry of Information and Tourism on September 15, 1975. Since then it has been awarded in the last quarter of each year to one of the six writers nominated by the Royal Academy of the Spanish Language of Spain and Latin America, who receive it the following year on April 23 at the University of Alcalá de Henares, Madrid, which coincides with the book fair in commemoration of the death of the author of Don Quixote de La Mancha.
21 April 2013