SELF-PORTRAIT OF THE OTHER by Heberto Padilla

SELF-PORTRAIT OF THE OTHER

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KIRKUS REVIEW

The political commentary that hovered unsatisfyingly at the fringes of Padilla's poetry (Legacies, 1981) and fiction (Heroes Are Grazing in My Garden, 1984) moves to the center, still unsatisfyingly, in this memoir of life in Castro's Cuba. As Cuba's foremost poet and a man of strong political beliefs, Padilla has led a life filled with incident. He knew Castro long before he came to power; with the coming of the Revolution, he helped begin the literary review Lunes de Revolucion and served in the Cuban foreign press agency. The same year (1968) that he was called home in disgrace over his criticism of the Castro regime, his poems won the prize in the National Literature Competition; and his jailing, forced recantation, and release in 1971, followed by his hard-won permission to leave for America ten years later, made headlines around the world. Unfortunately, this courageous and articulate man can be a bit of a bore too, especially in the first half of his book, where he scorns ""lineal"" discourse, organizing his book instead ""in the style of a tapestry from Central Asia. . .piling up people, train stations, horses, trees, roads, houses, and castles."" With his imprisonment halfway through, his story becomes more direct, impassioned, and anecdotal, though even here, his distinguished contemporaries--Che Guevara, Alberto Mora, Lezama Lima, Bias de Otero, Virgilio Pinera, Yevgeny Yevtushenko--all too often seem to be passing through on their way to duly recorded demises and eulogies. Worth reading for its picture of intellectual life after the Revolution, but disappointingly superficial as a self-portrait.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1989
ISBN: 0374526559
Publisher: Farrar, Straus & Giroux