Archive for the ‘Chronicles’ Category

La novela perdida

Posted: October 30, 2016 by jennroig in Chronicles, Commentary, Reviews, Spanish

Ayer tropezé de nuevo con la literatura cubana. Llegué a las 6:25pm a una presentación que debía haber empezado a las 6:30pm, y por supuesto arrancó a las 7:00pm. El Libro es Memorias del Equilibrio y el autor José Fernández Pequeño.

memorias-del-equlibrio-carita-266x400Fui a la lectura porque me llegó vía una invitación de Facebook, donde se describía el libro como de relatos existenciales. Y yo quiero, siempre he querido pero ahora más, encontrar el libro existencial cubano. La promesa no se cumplió.

Pero lo que hizo  la experiencia extemporánea es que no sucedió en La Habana, en alguna sala de la UNEAC o el Pabellón Cuba o La UH. Pasó en New York, en una sala de NYU y entre quienes supongo serían también cubanos emigrantes. Salvo una amiga neoyorkina que me acompañó porque le supliqué que fuera conmigo para que me sirviera como ancla a la normalidad. Mi normalidad.

Memorias del Equilibrio resultó no ser lo que estaba buscando, pero fue de todos modos un descubrimiento interesante, por lo distinto. Un tono que para mí es costumbrista, como el mismo autor dijo, “del habla no del lenguaje”, presentado por un narrador que en primera persona o a la sombra de esta creaba juegos espaciales. Costumbrismo entregado en una estructura de nuevo milenio, aunque ya ese tono lo iban teniendo en Cuba desde mucho antes de 1999.

He tratado de entender durante el día qué es lo que me irrita en libros como Memorias del Equilibrio. Va más allá de que en sí mismos sumen a la imagen de lo cubano como lo burdo, lo tosco, donde yo no quiero encajar. Como si lo cubano no fuera también Eliseo Diego y Dulce María. Porque por más que me rebele contra la imagen ultra publicitada de los bicitaxis, los cerdos en la azotea, la vieja chismosa del CDR, inevitablemente eso también es Cuba.

Va más allá del sexismo que se cuela en el uso de la mujer como personajes y su forma de hablar. No logro imaginar a ninguna de las mujeres cubanas que conozco diciéndole a un amante que “le gusta por lo puerco que es”. Pero quizás sí existe. Sólo que yo no la quiero conocer. No por purdor o puritanismo, porque leer sobre un glande turgente no es nada luego de haber leído a Zoé Valdés, o Jesús David Curbelo, o Henry Miller, ya el resto no sorprende.

Va más allá de la reafirmación del arquetipo sexista: “el habla popular cubana es masculina porque es dura, directa, sarcástica”. Como si las mujeres fueran incapaces de ser duras y crueles, directas y sarcásticas.

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René Peña

Creo que lo que más me molestó, no del libro que no he leído, y no leeré, sino de la experiencia en sí es la promesa rota. El no encontrar el libro existencial cubano que me defina desde adentro, al margen, o más allá, o por encima, de los momentos políticos, un acento o un habla, el edificio icónico, el referente espacial. Todo lo que nos habla sólo a nosotros y nos separa de los demás, de quienquiera que no es cubano de Cuba. Porque tenemos códigos tan cerrados, tan de Isla, que no dejan entrar ni a cubanos de Miami, ni a cubanos de New Jersey, ni a Cubanos de Madrid. Qué le queda entonces esperar al cubano de Finlandia o de Australia…

Otro escritor me dijo hoy que Cuba carece de la gravedad, o la visión en la distancia, o el largo aliento para producir ese tipo de literatura, porque el trópico nos drena, por eso Cuba da buenos cuentistas y poetas.

Pero no me acaba de cerrar la hipótesis. Hace aguas cuando recuerdo la novela del colombiano que no recuerdo su nombre pero sí el título, Érase una vez el amor pero tuve que matarlo. Y colombiano no cachaco, sino costeño, tan atrapado por el calor como nosotros. O La Muerte de Artemio Cruz, o Aura, de Fuentes. No creo que Fuentes se estuviera congelando en México.

02-cirenaica-moreira-he-lives-in-cincinnati-and-does-not-even-write-to-me-1999

Cirenaica Moreira

Mi teoría para explicarme por qué no tenemos la novela épica existencial es porque en Cuba no se tolera el dolor. Admitir el dolor. El dolor es de débiles, de flojos. Lo que hay detrás de la explicación del choteo que da Mañach es una alergia generacional al dolor. Por eso los cubanos podemos ser grandes cínicos, geniales manejando el doble sentido, jugando vivo, machacando en baja… Pero tan pronto alguien se pone serio y expone el dolor, todos nos anticipamos la risa, porque necesitamos desesperadamente que la tragedia se vuelva tragicomedia. En un libro de cuentos cubano un hombre decía a la mujer que amaba que “en Cuba no se podía decir te quiero”… Me gustaría saber si los cubanos podríamos tomar en serio un ciclo de psicoterapia freudiana.

Y para lograr escribir las grandes novelas al dolor hay que atraesarlo como a una tormenta, un ejercicio de apnea submarina. Hay que hundirse y respirarlo, de frente, sin escudarse en esquinas de humor negro o sardonismos.

Me pregunto si algo tiene que ver la oda nacional al choteo con tener un país con los más altos índices de suicidio, a niveles de los países nórdicos, a pesar de todo ese sol. En Cuba los hombres se ahorcan y las mujeres se dan candela, dice el refrán. Porque rumiamos el dolor sin enseñarlo a nadie, sin reconocer que está, y esperamos que se vaya por sí mismo, porque Dios nos libre de mostrar tamaña vulnerabilidad.

Y así nuestras grandes obras son sardónicas, juguetonas si bien oscuras, como Novás Calvo, Virgilio, Onelio Jorge Cardoso, Jesús Díaz, Reinaldo Arenas… Donde el dolor va por debajo, el dolor por el padre que abandona, por la madre que rechaza, por el amante que engaña, por la decepción hacia el ideal. El dolor se arrastra a hurtadillas, sobreentendido por quién lee pero jamás admitido por quien narra.

Claro que habrán excepciones. Pero Dulce María, Eliseo Diego, o Cirilo Villaverde tienen quizá mucho en sí de la madre España.

isabel-santosLa excepción más gigantesca es quizás en cine, Fernando Pérez. Pero incluso en él, el dolor está marcado por la muerte.

Como si la muerte fuese la única disculpa para sentir dolor, para traslucir el dolor.

Quizás es eso lo que más me irrita de momentos como el de ayer. Que por más que busco no encuentro el autor cubano que escriba para explicarme mi lugar en el mundo, y que destile la esencia de quiénes somos, desnudos de espacio y de madre patria. el autor que escriba La Montaña Mágica cubana.

Things

Posted: November 29, 2015 by jennroig in Chronicles, English, Travels
Tags: ,
1990-RUSSIAN-SOVIET-NESTING-DOLL

Matrioshkas: Vintage set, exactly like mine.

– If it happened that right now you were tele transported to a different reality, in any place in the world where you have no connections, what would you have to take along?

I was asked that question once. Many things came to mind but I could not pinpoint the right answer.

-That´s because you need nothing. You should only need yourself. The rest are tools to be reacquired or just burden.

It is difficult to anticipate how simple and complicated all that could be, or to what extent that would be true or false.

I have spent the last five years of my life going around owning the minimum. Keeping a light luggage means having to decide frequently what to leave behind, and what travels with me. Those decisions gotta be practicality driven.

Some of these things, a few but still, I have kept not out of absolute necessity, but out of some sort of loyalty, memory or nostalgia. Some times I have decided not to give in into getting something new, even if I badly want it, to save space for what I already have.

I have kept a photo album put together to bring along. A collection of DVDs with school works. A Swiss army knife. And gigabytes full of memories, and the fear that some day all that could explode in a cloud of zeros and ones.

I would have been difficult to predict that after a while, the nostalgia for things changes. The nature of the things longed changes. Recently I have remembered my old set of Russian dolls, wondering whether those still exist. Or where did I leave, to whom did I ask to store the other set of Russian dolls that a friend gave me as a present. I have thought that I have no pictures from when I was a child and my parents were young, and I would want to have it.

Humans and things get entangled in complicated relationships. For some reason things are thought to be there to fill voids we can´t.

In Astoria, walking west in the 31st Avenue, you cross Vernon Boulevard to find yourself in front of the East River. It is a surprising spot in NY, kind of underrated, sort of hidden, with far less audience and visitors than it deserves.

spring NYThe other side is Roosevelt Island, and the skyline behind is Manhattan. If you turn right, you would find eventually in Astoria Park, which is a more visited and acknowledge spot, closer to restaurants and bars and the N,Q line. But if going left, then surprises pile.

spring NY (5)You can plan a BBQ on the Socrates Sculpture Park, a name more sumptuous than reality checks. There are a couple of statues, and cryptic installations, mixed with a welcome green-grass in a corner of Queens, where red brick rules.

spring NY (3)It´s a reserved spot for cyclist, picnic-style families, yoga practitioners and dog walkers.

If you keep walking the path, after a momentary step into the Vernon Blvd at Broadway, you are right again entering through a Costco gate, heading to a waterfront that is the Rainey Park.

spring NY (7)spring NY (8)The exit takes you to the 34 avenue… you can then decide to go back or keep walking a longer distance to Queensbridge Park. Or none of these and just take your walk back to the red brick heading to 21st Avenue, and again to Broadway, and 31st Street, in a green Astoria.

spring NY2

Or the lack of it…

-ASTROFIZICA-2

Gravity is technically a force. Actually the most powerful force in the universe, holding planets and stars on course. The reason why they connect gravity with seriousness, in crimes, it’s because there is also gravity in intention. With purpose a route is set, a path that can be walked step by step, toward a core that draws us, preventing us from hesitating, from taking a turn, from thinking it twice, from floating away. Indecisiveness is like floating away, when the core has lost strength, or when the core is there no more.

tree rootsI have done my backpack, and then undone it again. Feeling that your backpack stares back at you is a good sign of floating. Just floating. Not even away. Then I discover: that´s why plants have roots.

Without purpose, the way to stay on the ground is having roots. Or at least an anchor that ties you to the port, while the moment comes to sail away. Sail to another destiny, to another harbor, or simply to a shipwreck.

woman triggeredThere’s gravity on projects, and a migrant tends to take a path following a project. The project could be survival, or love, or change. But what happens once we are passed survival and we are supposed to be living, or change turned into habit? Then there’s the unbearable lightness of being. Then there are no roots, and without roots, anchor or a strong intention, there’s only floating.

Say, moving to a new country, or a new city, it’s like meeting new people. It’s awesome. It’s being in a mission, if for survival or success doesn’t really matter. All focus is placed on a goal, on a core. It’s aiming at a heart, or running away from the shot. That’s danger: anticipation. then there’s the peace that comes right after the bomb exploded, the shot was taken… When we either hit target or dodged the bullet. When danger is past, time freezes. Or rather, there’s only time. With much time, indecisiveness.

There’s something special to the feeling of meeting an old friend. There’s gravity in old friendship. There’s memory, a recognition of who you are in who you were. Gravity is continuity.

Re-Cognize. Someone remembers you from another time, another place. That’s a proof that you exist, you’re not a figment of your own imagination. It is also evidence that you were able enough to remain in someone’s mind. There must be some worth in that.

Lady-Light-Floating-Bed-Universe

A friend told me once that I had developed a dangerous addiction to changes. Another friend had told me later that lack of gravity is what exile is. I hadn’t connected both till now.

How to spot the “right place”

Posted: November 13, 2014 by jennroig in Chronicles, English, Travels
Tags: , , ,

That may sound like an odd question. Especially to those who have remained in the same place for most of their lives. But there’s a particular group among humans who really enjoy moving around. Those may understand the point of this question.

It’s a twisted joy, I admit. Of course we all seek for that sense of belonging, for someone or something or some place that we can relate with, that can recognize us, that we can recognize ourselves there… Still, there’s pleasure in being willing to keep looking where can we be better, of not giving up and settle down for less that we really want or believe we deserve.

Then, after a while living in different places, shifting from location to location, a sense of being “rootless” starts to develop. It grows, keeps gaining space inside us in an inverse correlation to the volume of the things we own The less we have, the more light we become. With this sort of lightness, a sense of freedoms then comes to plant a flag, or maybe spreads its wings… And that’s a wonderful feeling for those who own it… The flip side to that is that not everyone gets it, o a certain solitude comes along with the bargain.

Fascination of the Night by Leonid Afremov

Fascination of the Night by Leonid Afremov

There’s also the feeling of not really have a “place to return”. We were there, we’ve done that. Place after place. Suddenly we realize we don’t fit in our hometown anymore. Homeland becomes a ghost, or rather a unicorn, depending of whether we believe memories were real at some point, or were they always figments of our imaginations.

But no matter how much we really enjoy that sense of freedom, that lightness, the eyes are always vigilant trying to spot that “right place”. A right place for us. A right place for me.

The sad thing is that I don’t have an answer to that question. I have fallen in love with cities before, at first sight. I have thought I had arrived to my right place to later start feeling the same urge to go elsewhere, to leave again.

Maybe there’s no right place. Maybe the new place is always right, and time tames that thrill turning it into something different. There’s placer as well in what is familiar. I guess it depends on what we are willing to give up, give in, or just give.

Brené Brown

Brené Brown

I made a mistake this week. A rookie mistake, to be honest. I was assigned with an article for a specialized news outlet I managed to get in touch with some weeks ago. This was my second publication and, admittedly, I’ve been as at edge about it as a recent graduate could be. I messed up by not scrolling down enough the initial mail my editor sent me, so I didn’t see the report that was supposed to substantiate my research and writing. Instead, I went on reaching out to sources and writing my analysis based on the main idea the editor pointed me to.

When I received his mail asking why wasn’t there any mention on my text about that report he had shared with me, I checked the mail and… horror! There it was. I didn’t know what to do, what to say that could make me sound at least just a bit smarter. But there was no honest excuse so I opted for the truth: I hadn’t scrolled down enough to see the complete content of his email.

During some hours I feared the worst, while waiting his feedback. What do you want me to do? I had asked –do you want me to rewrite some parts to include relevant content from the report? I’m happy to fix this anyway you see it better…I’m so sorry! I Apologize!1000w-1

This afternoon, I’ve found an amazing TED Talk by Brené Brown which at this point I may believe is the best TED Talk ever as I felt it talked straight ahead to me. Brown summarizes how she spent years trying to find out what makes us, Humans, happy or unhappy. She found that it’s all a matter of connections. People’s need to connect is universally shared, so basically our joy or misery is pretty much originated in the same way, whether you live in Denmark or Mozambique. It turns out that those who can connect more effectively are those who feel they are worthy; they feel there’s beauty on their imperfections, so they are not afraid to be vulnerable.

Later at midday I got a new email from the editor. He appreciated my honesty and told me what to do next. It was such a relief. My piece is published by now. I’m expecting now for the next week to complete my next assignment, hopefully, no more rookie mistakes.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Dialogue

Posted: August 29, 2014 by jennroig in Chronicles, English, Photography, Travels

This week’s photo challenge, as posted by The Daily Post, is “Dialogue”. And a great one indeed!

(c)jennroig, Parque del Retiro, Madrid, Spain, 2010

(c)jennroig, Parque del Retiro, Madrid, Spain, 2010

This shot was taken on the spring of 2010 in Madrid, Spain. There’s this big park in the heart of the city -Parque del Retiro- where I found this particular frame. I liked it because it was a harmonic ensemble of nature and human work; because it was an obvious evidence of the human need to control chaos, and still chaos hits us back; and because it was a breeze of color in an otherwise quite gray day.

Today, I believe it fits perfectly in that definition of dialogue: “When it comes to photography, dialogue can be perceived as a consensual interaction between two images.”