J. M. Cohen, who has already given us an extremely useful anthology, Latin American Writing Today (noticed in this issue of the HAHR, p. 546), has now added a highly readable volume of contemporary Cuban writing. The book emerged from his visit to revolutionary Cuba in 1965 to serve on the jury of the Casa de las Americas poetry prize.
The selections in this book are accurately representative of the twenty authors chosen: Calvert Casey, Roberto Fernández Retamar, Oneilio Jorge Cardoso, Heberto Padilla, Fayad Jamis, Virgilio Piñera, Pablo Armando Fernández, Humberto Arenal, Luis Marré, Antón Arrufat, Abelardo Estorino, Ana María Simo, José Alvarez Baragaño, Rogelio Llopis, Guillermo Cabrera Infante, Rolando Rigali, Jesús Díaz Rodríguez, Domingo Alfonso, Luis Agüero, and Reynaldo González. My favorite in the collection is Jesús Díaz Rodríguez’ short story “The Cripple,” set in the period of the struggle against Batista.
While the writings represented in this anthology are aesthetically uneven, there is no doubt about the significance of the movement and the enormous enthusiasm and literary energy that is sustaining it. Except for one or two poems, everything in the book was written since 1959. However, there is no evidence here of a narrow Socialist realism. Rather the influence is that of Kafka, Eliot, and Apollinaire. But the subject matter stays close to the Cuban scene, and, as Cohen notes, “with universal education and several vigorous magazines they [the new Cuban writers] are now producing what is so far lacking in South America, a literature in touch with a public.”
In general the translations from Spanish to English, most of them by Cohen himself, are quite adequate, and the book as a whole is easy to read. Schools, libraries, and individuals interested in the emergence of a new and vigorous generation of Latin American writers will find this a valuable collection.