Friday, December 22, 2006

Interview with Guillermo Cabrera Infante

Guillermo Cabrera Infante was born in Gíbara, in the Province of Oriente, Cuba, in 1929. One of the best-known writers of the “Boom,” his name nevertheless does not appear in the 1980 Dictionary of Cuban Literature, published by the Institute of Literature and Linguistics of the Cuban Academy of Sciences.
Cabrera Infante is the founder of the Cinemateca de Cuba, the Cuban Film Library, which he directed from 1951 to 1956. In 1954, under the pen name G. Caín, he began writing film reviews for the weekly magazine Carteles, for which he later served as editor-in-chief between 1957 and 1960. In 1959, he became director of the literary magazine Lunes de Revolución until it was banned by the government in 1961.
In 1962, Cabrera Infante entered the diplomatic service as Cuba’s Cultural Attaché to Belgium. In 1965, however, he chose political exile and moved to London, where he has been living ever since with his wife, the former actress Miriam Gómez, whom he married in 1961.
Cabrera Infante is known for his puns and his experiments with the language. With a keen sense of humor, which he hides behind a straight face, he views writing as a game: “For me, literature is a complex game, both mental and concrete, which is acted out in a physical manner on the page.” He categorically rejects the term “novelist,” and insists on the fact that he is a writer of fragmentary tales which reflect the history of Cuba and the life of prerevolutionary Havana.
Among his many works are Así en la paz como en la guerra (In War and Peace), 1960; Un oficio del siglo veinte (A Twentieth Century Job, 1991), 1963; Tres tristes tigres, 1965 (Three Trapped Tigers, 1971), for which he received the 1964 Biblioteca Breve Prize of Barcelona and the 1970 French Prize for Best Foreign Book; Vista del amanecer en el trópico, 1974 (View of Dawn in the Tropics, 1978); 0, 1975; Exorcismos de esti(l)o (Exorcisms and Exercises in Style), 1976; Arcadia todas las noches (Arcadia Every Night), 1978; La Habana para un infante difunto, 1979 (Infante’s Inferno, 1984); and Holy Smoke, 1985. This last work is Cabrera Infante’s first book written in English, which makes him a Cuban-born British writer. He has repeatedly said, “I am the only British writer who writes in Spanish.” This work is another play on words, as it recounts the history of cigars and cigar smokers. Writing began for Cabrera Infante as a joke, but it has become akin to a drug which possesses him, the writer now says.
A new unexpurgated Spanish edition of Three Trapped Tigers is scheduled for publication in Venezuela in 1989. It will restore the twenty-two sections that were censored from the first edition.
The following two interviews were held in 1980 and 1984, in New York.
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