Saturday, December 16, 2006

Pedro Juan Gutierrez

A couple of texts from Cuban writer Pedro Juan Gutiérrez.

Claustrophobic Me
For years I’ve been trying to get out from under all the shit that’s been dumped on me. And it hasn’t been easy. If you follow the rules for the first 40 years of your life, believing everything you’re told, after that it’s almost impossible to learn to say "no," "go to hell," or "leave me alone."

But I always manage . . . well, I almost always manage to get what I want. As long as it isn’t a million dollars, or a Mercedes. Though who knows. If I wanted either of those things, I could find a way to have them. In fact, wanting a thing is all that really matters. When you want something badly enough, you’re already halfway there. It’s like that story about the Zen archer who shoots his arrow without looking at the target, relying on reverse logic.

Well, when I started to forget about important things–everyone else’s important things–and think and act a little more for myself, I moved into a difficult phase. And it was like that for years: I was on the margins of everything. In the middle of a balancing act. Always on the edge of a precipice. I was moving on to the next stage of the adventure we call life. At the age of 40, there’s still time to abandon routines, fruitless and boring worries, and find another way to live. It’s just that hardly anybody dares. It’s safer to stick to your rut until the bitter end. I was getting tougher. I had three choices: I could either toughen up, go crazy, or commit suicide. So it was easy to decide: I had to be tough.
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Buried in Shit

In those days, I was pursued by nostalgia. I always had been, and I didn't know how to free myself so I could live in peace.
I still haven't learned. And I suspect I never will. But at least I do know something worthwhile now: it's impossible to free myself from nostalgia because it's impossible to be freed from memory. It's impossible to be freed from what you have loved.
All of that will always be a part of you. The yearning to relive the good will always be just as strong as the yearning to forget and destroy memories of the bad, erase the evil you've done, obliterate the memory of people who've harmed you, eliminate your disappointments and your times of unhappiness.
It's entirely human, then, to be engulfed in nostalgia and the only solution is to learn to live with it. Maybe, if we're lucky, nostalgia can be transformed from something sad and depressing into a little spark that sends us on to something new, into the arms of a new lover, a new city, a new era, which, no matter whether it's better or worse, will be different. And that's all we ask each day: not to squander our lives in loneliness, to find someone, to lose ourselves a little, to escape routine, to enjoy our piece of the party.
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Pedro Juan Gutiérrez (b. 1950 in Matanzas) is a Cuban journalist, writer and artist.
Gutiérrez began to work selling ice cream and newspapers when he was eleven years old. He was a soldier, swimming and kayak instructor, agricultural worker, technician in construction, technical designer, radio speaker and journalist for 26 years. He is a painter, sculptor and author of several poetry books. He lives in Havana. He is the author of Dirty trilogy of Havana, King of Havana, Tropical animal (winner of the Spanish Prize Alfonso Garcia-Ramos 2000), The insatiable spiderman, Dog meat (Italian prize Narrativa Sur del Mundo), Our GG in Havana and the short stories of Melancholy of lions. Dirty trilogy of Havana, Tropical animal and The insatiable spiderman have been translated into English.
Named master of "dirty realism", Gutiérrez depicts life in the shady alleys of Havana with his unadorned style. Without taking any political stance, his books describe contemporary Cuba in an unembellished way. (Source: Wikipedia)

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