In a small coastal town in Cuba, made famous by the drinking and fishing habits of United Statesian author and journalist Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961), lives a woman as fundamentally influential for contemporary Cuban women writers as Hemingway was for the emerging American literary style of his time.
Mirta Yáñez (Havana 1948), whose series “Poetisas sí” is being published in installments on this blog, has been writing in multiple genres since the 1970s and winning awards in all of them. Her most recent prize-winning novel, Sangra por la herida (working title The Bleeding Wound, to be released in 2012 by Cubanabooks) is raising eyebrows and poking sore spots on her native island.
In the July-August issue of La Gaceta de Cuba(The Gazette of Cuba), Ute Evers reports a conversation with the author in Cojímar, where she lives and writes “un poco hermitaña” (a bit of a hermit) in a small house covered in bougainvillea and surrounded by tropical plants. Yáñez describes her
generation as the “sandwich generation” of the Cuban Revolution, old enough to participate in the excitement of the coffee-picking brigades and the national literacy campaign, but not old enough to be a decision-maker. They now feel disenchanted, that their time to make their mark has come and gone, without the opportunity to ever achieve the full utopian dream of their youth.
Following this line of discussion, Ute Evers zeroes in on one of the novel’s narrators/characters, a homeless woman who wanders through the capital city in full insanity, ending every monologue by muttering “…y La Habana se muere.” (literally: …and Havana is dying.)
As mouthy and daring as ever, Yáñez admits that these words encapsulate her own lament, that her city and country are in many ways languishing, a fact that fills her with resentment. “And I accept that is what I have, resentment, that’s exactly it, and I’m not afraid to use the word. It is a strong feeling: re-sentiment. A re-sentiment of loss and sadness. There will always be some feeling of protest, of complaint, in my literature, because that is who I am: I’m ill-tempered, polemical, I like to complain. It’s not bitterness, but rather an enraged persistence of memory.”
So there she is, by the sea, remembering. And telling.
Keep your eyes open for her new book to come out in English. It is sure to open our eyes and our hearts.
Note: This issue of La Gaceta isn’t yet included in the digital archives, but the reader is encouraged to access older volumes at http://www.uneac.org.cu/index.php?module=publicaciones.