Translating Mirta Yáñez’s prize-winning novel The Bleeding Wound (2014 Cubanabooks Press; originally Sangra por la herida, 2011, Letras Cubanas) was sometimes painful task–but not just in terms of how to get across idiosyncrasies in the author’s language, culture, and personal worldview.
As a recovering semi-radical leftist, coming to grips with the realities of life has been a challenge these last twenty years. Every day I’m faced with my own guilty capitalist pleasures; for instance, no matter how much money and time and energy I funnel into philanthropic projects, I still go home to my extra-plush king-sized bed. I’ve had to realize that NONE of the political or economic structures essayed so far have transcended the selfishness of humanity, and utopia still is a figment of the novelistic imagination.
Over the years, my love affair with Post-Revolutionary Cuba has had to integrate full knowledge of the frailties and inconsistencies of the beloved, and still maintain a fervor that stirs me. However, in working with The Bleeding Wound, my heart is lacerated yet again, slashed open to a depth never before felt.
The novel forces on me a new depth of knowing, a more profound understanding of just how cruel my beloved can be, in all her beauty and with all her best intentions. I feel horror, I feel compassion, I feel wistfulness of a time when I was more naive and love wasn’t so complicated. I am reminded of the lines from Neruda, lamenting: “I no longer love her, true, but perhaps I love her./Love is so short and oblivion so long./Because on nights like this I held her in my arms,/my soul is lost without her.”
I do still love her–the Cuba of Martí, the Cuba of independent pride, of utopian desires of bringing true equality to the entire world, the Cuba whose literature and humor and passion and sea spray have changed my life. It would have been much easier to not know her sins, to believe in a perfection that has never existed. The Bleeding Wound makes that impossible for even the most determined to stay blind, but in so claims the right to cleanse her own wounds rather than letting them fester in hiding. Thus, I am left with a heart full of love, bleeding through a thousand tiny cuts from her terrible truths, and at the same time constantly replenished by the promise she still holds out.