Thursday, February 01, 2007

Book Review: The Initials of the Earth by Jesús Díaz

Within the revolution, everything; outside the revolution, nothing,” has long been a favorite saying of Fidel Castro’s, the memorable, simple-sounding formula he has cited when he has felt the need to silence a critic, justify an apparently indefensible repressive measure or simply remind Cubans that his all-seeing eye is ever upon them. Jesús Díaz’s ambitious novel “The Initials of the Earth” was published in Cuba in 1987, which makes it by definition a within-the-revolution product. But that distinction was, it seems, hard won — the prize at the end of an arduous journey from nothingness to the sanctifying light of full, Fidel-approved being. In an essay appended to this first English-language edition, Ambrosio Fornet, a friend of the writer’s, tells us that Díaz wrote a version of the book in the late ’70s that was “condemned ... to the limbo of a tacit censure.” When the censure was lifted (presumably also tacitly) in the early ’80s, Díaz had, we are told, “the composure and professional sobriety to sit down and rewrite the novel from scratch.” Read More

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