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Virgilio Piñera (1912–1979)

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Verk av Virgilio Piñera

Cold Tales (1956) 112 exemplar
Rene's Flesh (1952) 100 exemplar
The Weight of the Island (1900) 17 exemplar
Cuentos Completos (1999) 9 exemplar
Muecas para escribientes (1990) 7 exemplar
Dos Viejos Panicos (1968) 4 exemplar
Electra Garrigó (2005) 4 exemplar
Pequeñas Maniobras (2011) 3 exemplar
Una caja de zapatos vacía (1986) 3 exemplar
Cold Air (1985) 3 exemplar
La Carne De René (2013) 2 exemplar

Associerade verk

Black Water: The Book of Fantastic Literature (1983) — Bidragsgivare — 500 exemplar
Sällsamma historier (1955) — Bidragsgivare — 274 exemplar
The Oxford Book of Latin American Short Stories (1997) — Bidragsgivare — 105 exemplar
The Vintage Book of Latin American Stories (2000) — Bidragsgivare — 105 exemplar


Allmänna fakta



A punto de cumplir veinte años, René es enviado por su padre a una escuela algo peculiar para que, en vez de cultivar el espíritu, se adiestre en el castigo de la carne. El cruento aprendizaje que allí se le imparte, cercano al suplicio, culminará con un grotesco rito de iniciación del que René escapa. A partir de entonces, en una sociedad cuyo motor es la carne, tanto como fuente de placer como de dolor, la vida de René se convierte en una constante huida ya sea del legado de su padre y los adeptos al «martirio», ya sea de la sensualidad de la señora Pérez y sus extraños amigos, Powlavski y Nieburg. Pero hasta que acepte la naturaleza «cárnea» de su cuerpo, René se las verá con dobles de su padre y de sí mismo, intentará guardar su anonimato cambiando de trabajo y empleándose en un cementerio, y se verá acorralado una y otra vez por quienes se empeñan en conducirlo a la Sede de la Carne Acosada.… (mer)
Natt90 | 3 andra recensioner | Jan 17, 2023 |

Virgilio Piñera (1912 - 1979) from Cuba - novelist, poet, essayist, playwright, short story writer. An author who refused to become part of any party, group or literary movement, an author who valued his extreme independence and bohemian lifestyle above all else. For example, as a student at the University of Havana he refused to defend his dissertation before a “bunch of donkeys." Now this, my friends, is an man and artist I can relate to. It gives me great joy to share my review of his outstanding collection of 43 short stories, some as short as 1 or 2 pages and others as long as 10, 20 or 30 pages. Below are two complete Virgilio microfictions followed by my write-up of a short story I'll never forget.

The man goes to bed early. He can’t fall asleep. He tosses and turns in bed, as might be expected. He gets tangled in the sheets. Hi lights a cigarette. He reads a little. He turns out the light again. But he can’t sleep. At three o’clock, he gets out of bed. He wakes his friend next door and confides that he can’t sleep. He asks the friend for advice. The friend advises him to take a short walk to tire himself out. And then, right away, to drink a cup of linden blossom tea and turn out the light. He does all that, but is unable to fall asleep. He gets up again. This time he goes to see a doctor. As usual, the doctor talks a lot but the man still doesn’t fall asleep. At six in the morning, he loads a revolver and blows his brains out. The man is dead, but hasn’t been able to get to sleep. Insomnia is a very persistent thing.
I’ve learned to swim on dry land. It turns out to be more practical than doing it in the water. There’s no fear of sinking, for one is already on the bottom, and by the same token one is drowned beforehand. It also avoids having to be fished out by the light of a lantern or in the dazzling clarity of a beautiful day. Finally, the absence of water keeps one from swelling up.

I won’t deny that swimming on dry land has an agonized quality about it. At first sight, one would be reminded of death throes. Nevertheless, this is different: at the same time one is dying, one is quite alive, quite alert, listening to the music that comes through the window and watching the worm crawl across the floor.

At first, my friends criticized this decision. They fled from my glances and sobbed in the corners. Happily, the crisis has passed. Now they know that I am comfortable swimming on dry land. Once in a while I sink my hands into the marble titles and offer them a tiny fish that I catch in the submarine depths.
Black humor mixed in with the grotesque and absurd, anyone? With short stories like this one, is it any wonder in 1961 at age forty-nine, a couple of years following his return to his native Cuba from Argentina, Virgilio Piñera was jailed for “political and moral crimes.” After his eventual release, the author continued to live independently on the extreme margins, refusing to bow or answer to anybody or anything. ALERT: The below direct quotes from Virgilio’s story along with my comments are soaked in the blackest grotesque humor - not intended for the squeamish.

Bon Appétit, One: During a meat shortage, the townspeople initially protested but soon started devouring vegetables. However, a Mr. Ansaldo didn’t follow the order of the day. No, not at all. “With great tranquility, he began to sharpen an enormous kitchen knife and then, dropping his pants to his knees, he cut a beautiful fillet from his left buttock. Having cleaned and dressed the fillet with salt and vinegar, he passed it through the broiler and finally fried it in the big pan he used on Sundays for making tortillas.” This absurdist scene is vintage Virgilio Piñera. Many of his stories are laced with body parts cut, pasted or transformed in bizarre, impossible combinations.

A True Gentleman: Mr. Ansaldo begins to enjoy his meal but there’s s a knock at his door. Turns out, Ansaldo’s neighbor, sick of eating veggies, wants to vent his frustration. But then, “Ansaldo with an elegant gesture, showed his neighbor the beautiful fillet. When his neighbor asked about it, Ansaldo simply displayed his left buttock. The facts were laid bare.” Love the play on words. Also, Ansaldo’s great willingness and neighborliness to share his ingenuity during a meat shortage.

The Body of Comrades: Overwhelmed with admiration, the neighbor returns with the mayor of the town. “The mayor expressed to Ansaldo his intense desire that his beloved townspeople be nourished – as was Ansaldo – by drawing on their private reserves, that is to say, each from their own meat.” This whole scene and play on words has echoes of communist slogans, writing I suspect not particularly appreciated by the leaders of the new Cuban communist regime.

Bon Appétit, Two: After silencing grips from the well-educated (damn those elitist intellectuals!) the major invites Ansaldo to provide instruction and a demonstration for the masses in the town square. With the bravado of a sage on the stage, Ansaldo gives it his all (no pun intended). Following detailed instructions, the townsfolk, knives in hand, start cutting enough fillets to last each man and women one hundred and forty days (calculations provided courtesy of a distinguished physician). Tongues, lips and other delicacies are relished. But there are some minor drawbacks, such as “The prison warden could not sign a convict’s death sentence because he had eaten the fleshy tips of his fingers, which, according to the best “gourmets” (of which the warden was one), gave rise to the well-worn phrase “finger-licking good.”” Too bad such practices are restricted in modern consumer societies. I can picture a TV commercial with fingers so “finger-licking good,” - by far the most memorable commercial in the history of TV.

The story continues with hilarious jabs at society run according to uniform, scientific rules. What really comes through is Virgilio Piñera’s disdain for a public or government having little respect for privacy, nonconformity or individuality. As G. Cabrera-Infante writes in this collection’s introductory essay, “When I tell you that by reading these stories you’ll get a kick out of them I don’t mean champagne or cocaine. I’m talking of a true kick. A kick in the groin or in the stomach but most of the time a kick in the soul, where it hurts metaphysically and you bleed eternally.”

… (mer)
Glenn_Russell | 1 annan recension | Nov 13, 2018 |

Cuban revolutionary literary artist and poet, Virgilio Piñera, pictured with another kind of Cuban revolutionary.

René’s Flesh by the Cuban poet, playwright, novelist and short story writer Virgilio Piñera (1912—1979). Instead of the Freudian triad of id-ego-superego, with this novel, surely one of the most irreverent novels ever written, we have the triad of meat-butchered-butcher at the butcher shop.

So, for instance, if one were to make a Piñeraian slip as opposed to a Freudian slip, one would say something like “This is one grizzle novel!” instead of “This is one grizzly novel!” Or “I’d really like to sink my teeth into this meaty book.” Or, on a trip to the grocery store: “Excuse me, madam, excuse me, sir, would you mind shifting your slabs of meat to the left so I can walk by?” Thus with meat and nothing but meat on the menu, would anybody care to serve up a slice of life as to how you would make your own Piñeraian slip?

As translator Mark Schafer remarks in his introduction, the word flesh and the word meat are interchangeable in the Spanish language, so anytime we English-speaking readers read “flesh” it can be understood as “meat” and vice versa. Therefore, using this linguistic rule to flesh out (no pun intended) Virgilio Piñera’s vision more completely, the novel’s title could be “Rene’s Meat.” I couldn’t agree more with another reviewer noting how this Cuban novel is not for the faint of heart.

What highlights the tone of the entire work can be seen when René, age twenty, is dropped off by his father at the school where he will receive his education in pain. René meets the school’s Headmaster, a brutish, mean-spirited thug by the name of Mr. Marblo, a large man who looks about fifty and “was as bald as a billiard ball,” – well, my goodness, echoes of another petty tyrant intent on inflicting torment, Mr. Kurtz from Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness.

Mr. Marblo points out to René the school’s motto: “Suffer in silence,” and then goes on to speak enthusiastically on how a student must suffer in order to learn and how knowledge must be beaten into a person without that person so much as uttering a moan, death rattle or even an ouch. (Darn, “suffer in silence” could be the motto for every football locker room, boxing club and military boot camp under the sun, not to mention scores of households where physical and emotional abuse abound).

René objects, claiming his doesn’t understand the reason he will be made to suffer in order to learn or why he requires punishment to better solve math problems or memorize history lessons. The Headmaster scoffs and replies he has heard students unload such a long-winded speech a thousand times before.

What irony, Virgilio! Long-winded? René spoke three short sentences. Anyway, Mr. Marblo then delivers his own lengthy speech about the school’s philosophy, the amazing results achieved by their well-tested methods and ends by telling René he will obviously be wearing a uniform.

You have to love this exchange, reminiscent of recruits entering forced military service or prisoners entering prison or inmates corralled into death camps: the authorities set the rules, however harsh or dehumanizing, and those under their charge must obey, no questions asked. Of course, in the spirit of the author’s black humor, this scene could also relate to a youngster’s entering military school or, where nuns still hit kids with rulers, the local parochial school.

When René scrutinizes the faces of those other new students, the neophytes, so called, who, like himself, are about to enter the school’s underground torture chamber, he detects how their faces are completely devoid of worry. Seen through the guise of the author’s penetrating black humor, such lack of worry or concern for one’s health and well-being speaks volumes about the previous training and rigid values these young men have all received from home and family. Ah, family! Suffer in silence, which is a positive spin on the wish to snuff out any sensitivity and the natural inclination we all have for pleasure, affection and intimacy.

As a first step of initiation, the neophytes are accosted by the second-year boys - all fifty, like hunting dogs, fling themselves at the neophytes and begin sniffing them up and down, head to toe. The author’s piercing insight as to how young people living in such a horrific environment are quickly reduced to the basest animal sense, sniffing with one’s nose.

In many respects, I am reminded of the training those youths received in ancient Sparta, the goal being to transform the tenderness of youth into hard, viscous military machines. Bye, bye gentleness and kindness; hello marauding, torture and killing, especially torture and killing, both valued as the ultimate aim of life.

Somewhat thereafter, the school’s professors, all adults, make their entrance. René can see they have truly wretched bodies, bodies he describes as rags and he wonders how men with such rags as bodies can be charged with the cultivation of youth. Good question, René! Observing how an adult’s body, misshapen and in many cases bloated and haggard, is the undeniable, physical evidence of a life turned against itself.

Another diabolical quality of the school is revealed: “spirit” is a meaningless term; all of life is reduced to flesh, body, and an unending human meat market. Is this perhaps the author’s bash against the philosophy of Castro and his Communism? I wouldn’t be surprised since Virgilio Piñera was branded as a pervert and criminal by the Cuban government.

But, but, but . . . the tale takes a decisive turn when René revolts against the school and everything the school represents. And René has an iron will. Predictably, the authorities call him a rebel, a hedonist (ultimate slam made by the guardians of the status quo), a student rebelling not out of pure fear as expected but rebelling out of pure contradiction. Unheard of. The authorities go even further, they label René abnormal and even worse, the most abysmal type: René is an eccentric.

René’s revolt against authority culminates in an absurdist version of the black mass and his immediate expulsion. Once beyond the school’s boundaries and out on his own, the story expands into wider dimensions of absurdist black humor, a black humor with an undeniable bite since René’s world is not that far removed from many features of our own. Again, a book not for the faint of heart. Cuban literary critic Alan Ryan wrote that Virgilio Piñera makes Stephen King look like Dr. Seuss. Truer words were never spoken.
… (mer)
Glenn_Russell | 3 andra recensioner | Nov 13, 2018 |

This collection of three tales from the great Virgilio Piñera of Cuba contains Meat, Insomnia and Swimming. The English translation of these delectable short stories may be found in Cold Tales, translated by Mark Schafer and published by Eridanos Press.

Many Cuban authors are known for their irreverence to authority and experimental flair. Virgilio Piñera is most certainly among the leaders in this illustrious tradition.

If you read only one piece to sample a taste of exactly how irreverent, the following short tale, Meat, is the one I would highly recommend. Please keep in mind this snapping work of fiction was published in the teeth of Fidel Castro’s communist government. I’ve read Meat again and again, savoring each mouthwatering sentence. Enjoy!

It happened simply, without pretense. For reasons that need not be explained, the town was suffering from a meat shortage. Everyone was alarmed, and rather bitter comments were heard; revenge was even spoken of. But, as always, the protests did not develop beyond threats, and soon the afflicted townspeople were devouring the most diverse vegetables.

Only Mr. Ansaldo didn't follow the order of the day. With great tranquility, he began to sharpen an enormous kitchen knife and then, dropping his pants to his knees, he cut a beautiful fillet from his left buttock. Having cleaned and dressed the fillet with salt and vinegar, he passed it through the broiler and finally fried it in the big pan he used on Sundays for making tortillas. He sat at the table and began to savor his beautiful fillet. Just then, there was a knock at the door: it was Ansaldo's neighbor coming to vent his frustrations. . . . Ansaldo, with an elegant gesture, showed his neighbor the beautiful fillet. When his neighbor asked about it, Ansaldo simply displayed his left buttock. The facts were laid bare. The neighbor, overwhelmed and moved, left without saying a word to return shortly with the mayor of the town. The latter expressed to Ansaldo his intense desire that his beloved townspeople be nourished - as was Ansaldo - by drawing on their private reserves, that is to say, each from their own meat. The issue was soon resolved, and after outbursts from the well educated, Ansaldo went to the main square of the town to offer - as he characteristically phrased it - "a practical demonstration for the masses."

Once there, he explained that each person could cut two fillets, from their left buttock, just like the flesh-colored plaster model he had hanging from a shinning meathook. He showed how to cut two fillets not one, for if he had cut one beautiful fillet from his own left buttock, it was only right that no one should consume one fillet fewer. Once these points were cleared up, each person began to slice two fillets from his left buttock. It was a glorious spectacle, but it is requested that descriptions not be given out. Calculations were made concerning how long the town would enjoy the benefits of this meat. One distinguished physician predicted that a person weighing one hundred pounds (discounting viscera and the rest of the inedible organs) could eat meat for one hundred and forty days at the rate of half a pound a day. This calculation was, of course, deceptive. And what mattered was that each person could eat his beautiful fillet. Soon woman were heard speaking of the advantages of Mr. Ansaldo's idea. For example, those who had devoured their breasts didn't need to cover their torsos with cloth, and their dresses reached just above the navel. Some women - though not all of them - no longer spoke at all, for they had gobbled up their tongues (which, by the way, is the delicacy of monarchs). In the streets, the most amusing scenes occurred: two women who had not seen each other for a long time were unable to kiss each other: they had both used their lips to cook up some very successful fritters. The prison warden could not sign a convict's death setence because he had eaten the fleshy tips of his fingers, which, according to the best "gourmets" (of which the warden was one), gave rise to the well-worn phrase "finger-licking good."

There was some minor resistance. the ladies garment workers union registered their most formal protest with the appropriate authority, who responded by saying that it wasn't possible to create a slogan that might encourage women to patronize their tailors again. By the resistance was never significant, and did not in any way interrupt the townspeople's consumption of their own meat.

One of the most colorful events of that pleasant episode was the dissection of the town ballet dancer's last morsel of flesh. Out of respect for his art, he had left his beautiful toes for last. His neighbors observed that he had been extremely restless for days. There now remained only the fleshy tip of one big tow. At that point he invited his friends to attend the operation. In the middle of a bloody silence, he cut off the last portion, and, without even warming it up, dropped it into the hole that had once been his beautiful mouth. Every one present suddenly became very serious.

But life went on, and that was the important thing. And if, by chance . . . ? Was it because of this that the dancer's shoes could now be found in one of the rooms of the Museum of Illustrious Memorabilia? It's only certain that one of the most obese men in town (weighing over four hundred pounds) used up his whole reserve of disposable meat in the brief space of fifteen days (he was extremely fond of snacks and sweetmeats, and besides, his metabolism required large quantities). After a while, no one could ever find him. Evidently, he was hiding . . . But he was not the only one to hide; in fact, many others began to adopt identical behavior. And so, one morning Mrs. Orfila got no answer when she asked her son (who was in the process of devouring his left earlobe) where he had put something. Neither pleas nor threats did any good. The expert in missing persons was called in, but he couldn't produce anything more than a small pile of excrement on the spot where Mrs. Orfila swore her beloved son had just been sitting at the moment she was questioning him. But these little disturbances did not undermine the happiness of the inhabitants in the least. For how could a town that was assured of its subsistence complain? Hadn't the crisis of public order caused by the meat shortage been definitely resolved? That the population was increasingly dropping out of sight was but a postscript to the fundamental issue and did not affect the people's determination to obtain their vital sustenance. Was that postscript the price that the flesh exacted from each? But it would be petty to ask any more such inopportune questions, now that this thoughtful community was perfectly well fed.

Virgilio Piñera, Cuban poet and author of extraordinary fiction, 1912- 1979
… (mer)
Glenn_Russell | Nov 13, 2018 |



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