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spanish translation

It's Rumba Time!
photo: David Morgan
Ernesto Mestre: photo David Morgan

Interview with
Ernesto Mestre
by Marcia Morgado

The Lazarus Rumba, Ernesto Mestre's first novel is an ambitious, multi-layered family saga narrating Cuba's recent past through the story of Alicia Lucientes. High-powered characters are woven into the tapestry of Lucientes' life, which descends into a hellish nightmare of dissidence and other forbidden fruits: incest, homosexuality, sex and death, set against the background of state and church. Poetry and opera are bound into the incandescent rhythm of images and anecdotes creating a disturbingly exciting portrait of doom. Surrealism and machismo blend into a landscape of elation and angst, betrayal, torture and murder, passion and love. Mestre's opera prima demands and deserves the full attention that it has recently received across the U.S. - the New York Times, Newsweek, and the LA Times, among others, have taken note and delivered enthusiastic reviews.

The second of five brothers, Ernesto Mestre was born in 1964 in Guantánamo, a city in Oriente, Cuba's easternmost province. He was brought up in a close-knit family, who left Cuba in 1972 for Spain before finally establishing their residence in Florida. There Mestre attended Miami's Marist-run Christopher Columbus High School where he became a voracious reader. He later received a BA in English Literature from Tulane University before settling in New York. This fall he begins teaching at Sarah Lawrence - while bartending in a mid-town Manhattan restaurant on weekends. Mestre is currently at work on a new novel.

Cuban-born writer and novelist Marcia Morgado, a contributing editor of the Barcelona Review, had a lengthy interview with Ernesto Mestre, which resulted in a frank and lively exchange on literature, politics and religion - and the tribulations of being gay in a homophobic society.

This is a very ambitious novel, how did it develop?
I started writing a play about the murder of the comandante, like a ghost who comes back, which is now the beginning of Chapter VII in the novel, when the ghost comes back to the house. That´s how the play started. Then his wife became as interesting to me as he was, if not more interesting, and it was the wife who took over the novel. There were so many digressions but I just kept on going with it, I thought I was never going to finish it. But many writers I talked to said: don’t fight it, don’t fight to finish it, just let it go where it’s going. Tonight, I’m going to read the "Bakery Administrator’s Daughter" and that’s a complete digression... What happened was that the Cuban Historical Society here in New York sent me a magazine and I saw an article about how hard it is to have La fiesta de los quince in Cuba now, how people have to struggle to still do it. I thought it’d be interesting to write about this, to work it into the story. And I did. That’s kind of how the whole novel developed, trying to have all the stories fit into the main theme... I don’t even know if I can trace what the main theme is...

Is there a real life parallel to the story?
The story of Lazarus Rumba is based on what happened to an uncle.

The character of Julio César . . .
...who was drafted into the Revolutionary Army. When he no longer wanted to serve in the army and decided to seek asylum at the U.S. base, he walked towards the border area and was shot near a Peerless fence. He was brought back to the hospital in Guantánamo and died two days later.

What was your uncle’s name?
Marco Antonio Ruíz...

When did your family become disenchanted with the revolutionary process?
I think my family sort of accepted it: "This is what’s happening, Batista wasn’t that great, let’s see what happens." I think, like most intellectuals, it was slow, it wasn't right away. And eventually - the way I hear it from my parents is that they left because they didn't want their children raised that way, and they say they might have stayed if they hadn't had kids. That’s partly what I’ve tried to reflect in my book: What if my family had stayed? What’s the life of people who did stay, who did not believe in the Revolution? I’m sure there are a lot of people like that and that’s partly what I tried to explore with the novel: What if my aunt had stayed? How disenchanted would she have become? How much of a dissident would she have become?

This aunt who left is the basis for the character of Alicia Lucientes?

When did she leave?
She left in 1970, right after - almost right after - her husband was killed.

Did she have any children by your uncle?

Does she have children now?
No. She never married again.

What about the relationship between Alicia and Hector?
That’s fictional.

And the character of Hector?
Pretty much fictional, somewhat based on a cousin of my mother . . . but all the acrobat stuff, that’s fictional.

And Triste’s monologue?
Triste is completely fictional.

It’s a great monologue.
It's partly based on books I’ve read about the UMAP [Military Aid to Production Units - the equivalent of forced labor camps where sexual and religious "deviants" were sent en masse during the mid- to late-Sixties]. From what I’ve read, Raúl Castro is the one who went to Hungary and saw these electrical experiments with gay men and it was tried for a little while and then it stopped.

There was experimentation borrowed from Hungary and Rumania and China to "dissuade" homosexual behavior...
But it was Raúl, right?

Raúl, who many consider to be gay...
Is that right?

Oh yeah, he is known as La China in some circles...
La China, I didn’t know that.

Yet he is so family-oriented, he looks after his children, the nieces and nephews... it’s really interesting, he is quite a character. Where does El Rubio come from?
I don’t know . . .he is completely fictional. [Cuban writer] Manuel Prieres has a memoir of Guantánamo where he mentions a police captain with blond hair; he is mentioned once as the head comandante in Caimanera, right next to the American base. I went and made him into this vindictive police captain who happens to be gay too, which is interesting.

El Rubio epitomizes the individual possessed by power and abusive of it.
At one point the mother called him the little tyrant. That’s the danger with totalitarian governments - it’s not just the big person at the top but the little tyrannies that form underneath them.

Did you see Néstor Almendros’ Improper Conduct?
No. I know about it ...I still haven’t seen it though.

Almendros wanted to do a documentary about the repression against homosexuals in Cuba, the UMAP camps and all, but it developed into a larger story about violations of human rights in general. However, the overall balance tips towards homosexual repression. The film closes with an interview Almendros did with René Ariza - a playwright imprisoned because he was gay and because his plays did not conform to the Revolution’s official storyline. The experiments with electro-shock drove him insane. Almendros closes Improper Conduct with Ariza looking straight into the lens, a quasi-demented gaze as he says: Tenemos que cuidarnos del Fidelito que todos guardamos dentro... [We must watch out for that bit of Fidel that exists in all of us.]
That’s great.

El Rubio had some power and went wild with it. What about that famed blue-feathered tenor-resurrecting fighting cock known as Atila?
Atila ...

A very real character ...
He is based on my grandfather, who was a real gentle person but who still carried all the traits of machismo. There was a gentleness to him that made him charming and those things acceptable.

And he loved opera?
He loved opera, yeah ...

How about the relationship between the two fighting cocks?
That I made up. You know Atila has been mentioned in every review and I came close to taking that whole section out of the novel.

I was being pressured to make it shorter... Atila is such a big digression that I thought maybe this ought to go but a couple of friends told me: "Don’t take it out because you’ll ruin the novel."

It’s very Cuban, it’s very much the spirit of Cuba. Cuba’s machismo, the homosexual-homophobic relationship. How about Teodoro Lucientes?
Based on both my grandfathers.

Was there a lot of incest in your family?
No... I don’t ... He wasn’t incestuous.

No, he wasn’t incestuous, but incest plays an important role in the story. The air of incest is prevalent in the relationship between Alicia and Marta, the two half-sisters.
Right ... and the relationship between Héctor and Alicia.

You know, I don’t know where that came from.

It’s a very incestuous island.
I think that may be part of it, and also there seems to be a whole theme in Latin American literature about incest and what it does.

Why did Marta disappear?
That's a big question. There is a suggestion that she went to Miami and I was thinking about writing a novel about her in Miami. I think Alicia slowly loses touch with her whole family. Her being a dissident becomes a central aspect of her life: she can’t be a mother, she can’t be a daughter, she can’t be a sister - especially when she is away in this nightmarish place; she slowly loses touch and when she comes back to see her daughter and sees that she's already a woman - that’s when she finally goes mad.

In the book you moved the Valley of the Nightingales...
I did...

Have you been there?
I’ve never been there but I’ve seen pictures and it looks so amazing, so I moved it to the Isle of Pines or Isle of Youth.

Isla de Pinos is now called Isla de la Juventud, Isle of Youth...
I moved it there to establish a parallel: that’s where Castro had been imprisoned when he was a rebel. Castro was once the same kind of rebel that Alicia becomes.

Did you encounter any reticence in your editors over the politics?
Not at all. That was the last thing I was conscious of doing as I was writing. I just wanted to capture what it would have been like to be in that country at that time, that’s the way it comes out. It’s definitely political, everyone who reads it says it’s a very political novel.

It would be quite difficult to write a novel about Cuba and abstain from politics.

You’ve done several readings of your novel, have you had negative feedback at any of the readings?
No, I read the torture scene at a college upstate, SUNY [State University of New York] at Oneanta and a couple of the professors looked at me and said: "How old are you? It’s so real, how do you know all this? Obviously it didn’t happen to you, how do you know how this took place?" So I told them what my sources were and that it was fictionalized, but there was that kind of doubt... Are you inventing this?

It’s very real and, what is more important, you establish a parallel between what happened before and after the Revolution. Power is power and the abuse of power leads to...
That’s what I wanted to do with Julio César. I never knew this man and he is obviously a heroic version of whoever my uncle was. He really believed in the Revolution. All he did was write letters to Castro saying you promised we would have democratic elections. He was set up for nothing.

Let’s talk about Joshua.
Joshua, the bastard son.

Supposedly, Castro has several unofficial offspring.
That’s where that came from, you hear that all the time. So you figure, what if there’s one son that’s been sent away to try to reform his mother... not based on anyone.

Has the book been translated anywhere?
Spain was the first foreign sale.

Do you read well in Spanish?
Leo español perfectamente pero [I read Spanish perfectly, but] I have to look up words. I was rereading the essay by Reinaldo Arenas that I mentioned to you and I got stuck. There are words I just don’t know so I have to sit there and look them up because I speak Spanish like a twelve-year-old. You seem to have a mastery of Spanish that I don’t.

I've lived in the States for thirty-six years. Two years before we left Cuba my mom decided to keep me out of school; she feared I’d be brainwashed.
That happened to us too.

You were kept out of school as well?
My mom had a big fight with a woman. My mom said: They're not going to be pioneros...[a cross between scouts and a communist youth organization in which schoolage children are strongly "encougraged" to participate]

When we left in '62, pioneros had not come into their own; the big scare then was la patria potestad, the fear that the government would take away parental rights. So my mother refused to send me to school. During the last two years we lived on the island I was out of touch with education in Spanish, and for the next eight years it was mostly English. I began to read Spanish again with One Hundred Years of Solitude. I still have the old Spanish Larousse, the best companion this girl had during those reading adventures. Thanks to it I was able to read and comprehend the "Boom". I relearned Spanish thanks to that little dictionary. We became inseparable...
That’s what I do now...

Have your parents read The Lazarus Rumba?
They're reading it now. When my father got to the part about the circus master and the two boys, he said: Está fuerte, está muy fuerte [This is strong, very strong].

That’s it? That was all?
Yeah. I don’t think he even wants to talk about it. Partly because they have such a big problem with my homosexuality.

You visit Miami once a year?
We go down there once a year. I’ve been going out with Andrew for two years so I brought him down there for the first time this January. They were pretty receptive. I was surprised because I'd never brought a lover home before. My mother made dinner and they even took us out; they were both very uncomfortable but were trying very hard to be nice. And just because it is such a big issue with them and because this novel deals so much with it, I think they might have problems with it.

Have you discussed the novel with them?
I’ve told them what it’s about but not in detail because I think it would be painful to them. My father seems to be enjoying it. I think when you write you don’t know how people are going to accept things.

And you shouldn’t care...
You shouldn’t care, you're right. The last thing you want is to censor yourself... that’s the worst kind of censoring, I think.

Absolutely, self-censoring is the worse kind of censorship. What are you going to do? You are a writer and you have to do what you have to do.
Even you... you had that reaction when I told you: my mother knows your work, you said I hope she didn't read my novel [referring to 69: Memorias eróticas de una cubanoamericana]. It’s the cubano thing; a society where you can’t tell anybody anything.

My aunt wanted to read my novel, she read it with a magnifying glass because she’s almost blind...
How old is she?

Late seventies.
What did she say?

Not a word.
But she read the whole thing.

To be a woman and to cross the line to discuss sex and politics frankly continues to be frowned upon. I used eroticism as a means to tell a story that deals with Miami-Cuban politics. Or to be gay and write openly about homosexuality continues to be a taboo here. And on the island as well, although sex has become a commodity there.
That’s the sad part, that’s what you were saying. Why go back and see that. And I’ve always said....well, you know because you’re a writer and it’s your country....go back and talk to the people, see what’s going on. But I’ve always been so afraid.

Everything there is unpredictable and Cubans are so submissive.
Are Cubans in Cuba submissive? Why is Castro still in power?

Both here and in Cuba, otherwise he wouldn’t be in power.

The easy answer has always been leaving. Although to escape in a raft is terrifying, I couldn’t do it. You dedicated the novel to Andrew...
Yeah, and to my brothers.

Andrew is the big love in your life?
We're going to start a family and everything.

You are planning to adopt?
A little girl first. We want a little boy and a little girl, but I want a girl first.

Where did you and Andrew meet?
We work at the same restaurant. I bartend on weekends, he’s the maitre’d there.

How long ago did you meet?
We met there two years ago, then I went away for a while to a writing colony. I came back and we moved in together.

Does Andrew share your love of literature?
No. He's trained as a chef. I admire his passion for food; he loves preparing food and he's so passionate about it. That’s what I admire in anybody. Someone who’s passionate about something. That’s why I admire people with faith because of the passion they put into it.

You and Andrew are having a commitment ceremony in Brooklyn?
At Prospect Park, it’s beautiful.

Is the family invited?
I told my mother. She said she can’t tell my father because she has to live with him and I respected that. All my brothers are coming.

And you are not going to tell your father?
My brothers think I should tell him but, you know, I see her point. You know how histéricos Cubans are. He is going to go into this whole trauma and she doesn’t want to deal with it. What can I say? I told my mother: I don’t judge you, I’m not a devout Catholic but I respect that you are. I admire your faith and I want you to do the same thing with my life. It’s simple: respect people ...not that complicated.

Is Andrew’s family coming to the ceremony?
His mother is but his father is not. The same thing with his father, very nice but you could tell that the poor man was so uncomfortable. His father is a farmer in Michigan, we went to this huge sweetcorn farm they have. It’s something that they don’t understand so I see what they are going through. He was talking to me but he couldn’t even look at me, that’s how difficult it was for him. I understand and I don’t judge the man. All I ask for is respect and he did give me that. So that’s fine. You can’t force somebody to love you, you can’t force somebody to accept. My parents will never accept the fact that I am gay because it goes so much against everything that they believe.

Yet homosexuality has played an important role in their church.
That’s true.

Are any of your brothers gay?

Are they all married?
One is married, one divorced, another is single and one is getting married.

Are they coming with their families?
Yes, my little niece is going to be the ring-bearer.

That’s Angela, I mention her in the acknowledgements, my little niece is so beautiful. That’s why I want a little girl.

When did you decide to make your homosexuality public?
I came out when I was twenty-five. I didn’t come out to my brothers until a year after and to my parents like three years after.

At twenty-five?
Came out to my friends, people at work and all that...

Were you afraid before?
Oh, terrified. I went out with women, dated women - the whole farce, that’s what it was. Partly because of where we are from. I remember the first time I dated a guy in New York, in the back of my head I’d be thinking ¿qué va a decir mi tía? [What would my aunt say?] It was stupid. But that's the kind of internalized homophobia that you are always, always going to carry with you. I still catch myself doing it at times...

What do you do? How do you catch yourself doing it?
Well, say we’re walking, Andrew and I always hold hands when we're walking down the street and it feels really comfortable. But at times you feel people looking at you and you don’t want to hold hands because of this internalized homophobia: here come two fags walking down the street. It’s completely internalized by the way I grew up. I think it's people who internalize it so much who take out their rage. That’s what I tried to do with El Rubio. He lives a certain life and takes out his rage through his whole power thing.

El Rubio reflects the dichotomy of a power-abusive, sexually divided nature.
The same thing is true with Castro: there is an internalized rage to Castro which he has basically aimed at the Yankees but it is about so much more.

The UMAP camps reflect the serious problem Castro has with his sexuality - why would anyone go to such extremes to punish differences in sexual preferences?
’m trying to base a character in my next novel on the head of the Cuban film society.

Alfredo Guevara.
Castro's best friend and the guy is a big queen. I read an article in Vanity Fair where they asked Castro, is Guevara gay? And he said: No way, no way is he gay...

Gay!, Guevara is the queen of queens, or as Arenas defines him in Before Night Falls: "a royal gay."
Yes...I don’t know if Castro admits it privately, although he’d have to say that publicly.

They used to share a room...
Is that right?!

Guevara is gay, Raúl is gay. Castro seduced crowds; he seduced (in a manner of speaking, anyway) all his comandantes. Those boys were in love with him, otherwise, someone would have done something to him. Cuba is a very homosexual country, extremely homosexual, yet homosexuality está mal visto [is frowned upon]. Cubans deal with sexuality in a very unhealthy manner.
Is that the Spanish tradition or the Spanish legacy that we’re left with or is it something else?

I think that the Spanish legacy has hurt us as a people in many ways. It’s a combination of the Spanish legacy and the African passion.
But the African passion seems to me to be so much more healthy.

Until it's fused with jealousy, sexual repression....then it becomes a lethal combination.

What about your second novel?
I‘m working on a second novel about a man writing his memoirs of his mother, who is also a dissident. He has come back to Havana from the United States for his daughter whom he left as a little girl with a nanny; she’s now had kids and gotten divorced and everything. And this man returns for her and in the process he befriends this character based on Guevara. They share a house and he writes the memoirs of his mother’s life.

Where is Guevara?
In Havana. He owns this beautiful house and they befriend each other. The son writes the memoirs of his deceased mother. I think he gets in trouble with the government. It's set in the late eighties and nineties.

How are you handling the research?
That’s what I’m doing now... I wrote sixty pages and said "I don’t know what the fuck I’m writing about" so I went back and started reading more. You know the Cuban Historical Society here? I go there and I read their papers, I kind of want to go back to Cuba but I’m still afraid.

Why did you use spiders to open and close the novel? ["Spiders" refers to running fingers lightly over the body.]
Because the book deals so much with what repressed sexuality does and this priest is based on the parish monsignor in Guantánamo. He was called Pastor. He had all these women servants; it always intrigued me the way they dealt with each other privately which I didn’t know. I kind of imagined it.

Did you imagine this as a child?
I imagined it later but I remember thinking as a child....these women were like his wives.

Were you an altar boy?

Were you abused by a priest?
No ...no.

Did you have any relationships with priests?
No ....I mean I adored this guy but he was never abusive at all. I remember this one time, you know the service on Maundy Thursday, he took all the altar boys and we sat up there and the pastor went around and he washed all our feet like Jesus did with the Apostles.

I found that so sexual - I mean thinking back on it now. Back then, you didn’t think anything, but why do I remember that above everything else? He washed our feet and he kissed our feet, all the altar boys... I mean think about how sexual that is...

Of course, the Church acts homophobic but is very homosexual.
Just the fact that priests are not allowed to get married. It happened that as a matter of course if you were gay and didn’t want to get married, you became a priest.

Absolutely... and then you had to express yourself somehow.

It’s sick, all this repressed sexuality is horrible.
That was the point of the spiders, these people are... I think I used the phrase, "ritual bound them together closer than rings bind lovers." Doing spiders is the ritual that they use instead of sex.

Do you practice any religion now?
No....you know I tell this to my parents, I really admire people who have faith.

You have none?
Not in the way they do. I have faith in the tradition of literature say, that’s what keeps me going. If I couldn’t have books then I might as well be dead.

Do you see literature as a saving mechanism?
Absolutely. It saved my life.

It made me want to live. And it was through teachers. That’s why I’m starting to teach this fall, that’s why I kind of want to be a teacher and pass that on. It happened early in high school: we were reading King Lear and this one Brother in school was so passionate about literature....the way he talked to you about it, he wanted you to understand it. I said if it can make this guy so passionate, there must be something there so I started reading. I wasn’t much of a reader before high school.

What was this teacher’s name?
Brother Sheehan.

Brother Sheehan. I had a similar experience, a high school English teacher whom I can still see reading Macbeth. Yeah...those teachers ought to be deified. From Columbus you went to Tulane...
I went to Tulane where I studied mostly English Romantic literature: Blake, Wordsworth, Shelley, Keats. It greatly affected me, I had a professor there who was as passionate about Romantic literature as anyone I’ve seen. Her name was Michael Young. She infected me and that’s what great teachers do, they infect you with this love. Then I was getting my doctorate at NYU in Renaissance literature and I dropped out because I said, I want to be a writer, I don’t want to be a professor writing about other people’s work. And I started writing.

How old were you?
Well, I had already started that other novel I told you about.

Right. When did you first begin to write?
In college. I kind of started writing... it took a long time to get to two hundred pages. I thought it was finished and then I kind of abandoned it because it didn’t make sense. Of course I read One Hundred Years of Solitude when I was nineteen and that affected me a lot.

It affects you, it just hits you... you know Arenas and García Márquez shared the Grand Prix D’Or in France for El mundo alucinante and Cien años de soledad...
It's funny, I just reread the note at the end of the essay I was telling you about. You know people said El mundo alucinante was very affected by Cien años de soledad but it was published three years before...

Yeah, yeah...
Tom Colchie [New York-based literary agent] has a great story, I forget the name of the Argentinean writer, he wrote in the Forties and Colchie wanted to get his work translated and published in English; he starts sending stories to The New Yorker and The New Yorker writes back saying these are interesting stories but they are too derivative of García Márquez. Colchie responds: that’s very interesting, they were published when García Márquez was still in diapers.

It's lamentable.
Yes, it is lamentable, you’re right. The ignorance, even with the very literary people here, about Latin American literature.

It's a situation based on ignorance...
Not to take away from García Márquez, he's an amazing writer.

He is a wonderful writer - but Latin America has had a tradition of wonderful writers long before One Hundred Years of Solitude.
That’s what Yankees do, they hook on to something and say, let’s move on to another culture.

Any other influences aside from Arenas?
My greatest influences, more than any Latin American writer, are the Renaissance poets, counting Shakespeare and John Donne. The way they used language I want to use language and it’s tough to do that when you are doing narrative. It makes narrative complicated, people have told me that my novel is too dense, almost.

It’s not.
There is so much information. But that’s what Donne does, Donne can write an eighteen-line poem and jam so much information and so much logic and so many images into it. That’s one person I think greatly influenced me, and his essays and his sermons are amazing because even when he became a preacher he was so obsessed with the human body and how it degenerates and all its flaws. He wanted to be of another world but he knew he was too much of this one. And that greatly attracted me. I think I'm obsessed with the way the human body fails and the way it doesn’t fail sometimes.

When did you have your first homosexual encounter?
I was twenty...four.

Not before?
Not before, no.

When did you know?
I knew when I was sixteen.

In high school.
Yeah, that’s why I was so jealous when I read Before Night Falls when he [Arenas] was doing it with his cousin when he was ten.

I said: damn!, where were my cousins?

You missed out, your cousins weren’t there for you. Reinaldo was something else. How did you manage?
I dated women and I slept with women. And I was terribly unhappy because I was repressing what I was passionate about.

Will you teach your children to be honest with themselves?
Absolutely, and I try to imagine what they could say to me that’s as painful as supposedly my telling my parents I was gay.... I don’t know. My daughter comes to me: I think I want to be a prostitute. I would definitely advise her against it but... I want them to be passionate about things. That’s the situation I come up with that I think would cause me to be as hurt as my parents are.

Are you planning to adopt Latino children?
No, we can’t. We want to. We have a friend who adopted a child from Cambodia... Latin American countries don’t allow single men to adopt.

What will you do?
We could adopt children who are American, but that brings up issues in court. We have friends who adopted this little black child from Mississippi. One of the parents adopted the child and they both raised it for two years. Then somebody told the judge who approved the adoption that the child was being raised by a gay couple and the judge started proceedings to get the child back.

¡Qué horror!
I don’t want to get into that. So, the safest route is to go to the Asian countries - which, funny enough, are the only countries that allow single men to adopt. So that’s probably what we'll do.

When do you plan to adopt?
In a couple of years.

So now you’re planning for the wedding...

Cover: Antony RussoTo conclude, I have a couple of questions: The Lazarus Rumba is a Cuban story and your second novel is shaping up as a Cuban story as well. Therefore, do you think of yourself as a Cuban author who writes in English or a U.S. author who writes about Cuban issues?
I definitely consider myself a Cuban writer who writes in English. That other option - "an American writer writing about Cuban issues" - sounds so foreign to me. And I guess that someday I will write a novel or a story that has little if anything to do with Cuba, but that doesn't mean I'll be any less a Cuban writer. When you're raised Cuban and Catholic, you remain both for life, at least in spirit.

Earlier we touched on literature as a saving mechanism. Could you elaborate on that? What saving characteristics do you find in literature? To what extent has The Lazarus Rumba become a saving force in your life?
I don't think literature can teach you how to live life. I know for certain that that's not how it saved me....how it saved me is all the conversations it opened up inside my mind, conversations that definitely made me a more curious thinker and a more honest human being. Like I said when I reread Donne's prose the other morning, you walk away from it transformed in some way....I'm not exactly sure how. Every time I read Donne he does that to me. As far as my novel, just finishing and seeing it have a life in the world has made me very happy. But it's a cheap, fake kind of happiness, I think - more real is the dread of approaching the keyboard every day, and the elation you feel while you overcome that dread momentarily. That's the attraction, the saving grace.

© 1999 The Barcelona Review 

Interviewer Marcia Morgado was born in Havana, Cuba in 1951 and moved to the United States in 1962. She has published a novel, 69: Memorias eróticas de una cubanoamericana (Spanish only, Editorial Casiopea, Barcelona, 1998;soon to be released in Germany by Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag) and is in the process of publishing a book of poems, Como azafrán. She founded and edited Mariel Magazine, a literature journal, and in addition to fiction writing has worked extensively in radio and journalism in Miami. She currently lives and works in Barcelona, Spain.

©Author photo: David Morgan
© Book Jacket: Illustration: Antony Russo.
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navigation:                                       barcelona review #14   mid-august to mid-october 1999
-Fiction The Waffle Code - Steve Aylett
William the Killer - Kristin Kenway
Perfect - Marcy Dermansky
Against the Door - Margarita Saona
-Poetry Special Round-table Discussion with Six Catalan Poets
Interview: Dolors Miquel
Poems in English:
Antoni Clapés | Enric Casassas
Visual Poetry:
Xavier Canals

Ernesto Mestre

-Quiz Vladimir Nabokov
-Regular Features Book Reviews
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