Revolution Sunday Mixes Genres to Tell Complex Cuban Story
Cuban poet and novelist Wendy Guerra's novel, Revolution Sunday (Melville House, 2018), translated by Achy Obejas, collides poetry and prose to convey a poet's world while living and creating within Cuba's communist society. At NPR, Lily Meyer writes: "The Cuban poet and novelist Wendy Guerra has lived under surveillance for a long time. Twelve years ago, her debut novel won Cuba's Bruguera Novel Prize, attracting the attention of the international literary community — and of Castro's secret police. Since then, Guerra has had her personal and artistic freedom challenged repeatedly." Picking up from there:
Her work has been banned in Cuba, and it's telling that her Twitter biotranslates not to "I live in Havana," but "I am aliveand in Havana."
In Guerra's novel Revolution Sunday, translated by Achy Obejas, the protagonist is in a similar position. Cleo is a young poet whose parents have recently died in a suspicious car accident. In the midst of her grief, she mails a manuscript to a poetry competition in Barcelona, and when she wins, she becomes both a star and a pariah. In Havana, other poets are afraid to speak to Cleo, but when she visits an old boyfriend in Mexico, his Cuban-exile community thinks she's untrustworthy because she still lives in Cuba, close to the Communist regime.
Soon, Cleo is completely isolated, but she refuses to give up writing, or living in Havana. She spends weeks at a time interacting with no one but Márgara, her family's housekeeper, who becomes another model of persistence and bravery. "Write and be quiet," she advises Cleo, but Cleo doesn't do well with quiet. "Being read, honored, translated into several languages doesn't matter if you're not recognized in your own country," she declares, "if you can't find your original readers, if you can't share your work with your own people."
Read more at NPR.