This essay examines Roberto Fernández Retamar's groundbreaking Calibán (1971) and his revision “Calibán revisitado” (1986), within their historical, political, and literary contexts. A few months before the publication of Calibán, the arrest of Cuban poet Heberto Padilla produced dissention among European and Latin American intellectual supporters of Cuba's revolution. Castro's condemnation of “bourgeois intellectuals” became the basis of Fernández Retamar's essay, and Shakespeare's The Tempest best addressed the relationship between the oppressor and the oppressed in Cuba and Latin America. Fernández Retamar traced the main characters from their inception in Shakespeare's play to his own essay; for him, the United States exemplifies Prospero and Cuba is Caliban. Fifteen years later, Fernández Retamar revisited his essay—he attacks certain Latin American intellectuals but is conciliatory toward others. Ongoing events in the Cuban Revolution—in particular, the 1980 Mariel boatlift and subsequent efforts by Cuba's youth to abandon the island—provide a framework for understanding why Fernández Retamar revised a position that made him one of the leading critics of Cuba and Latin America's intellectual world.
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William Luis; Revisiting the Past and Roberto Fernández Retamar's Calibán. Small Axe 1 November 2016; 20 (3 (51)): 123–137. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/07990537-3726722
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