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Can rebels be happy?

D.J. Enright, 23 May 1991

Self-Portrait of the Other: A Memoir 
by Heberto Padilla, translated by Alexander Coleman.
Farrar, Straus, 247 pp., £11.99, April 1991, 0 374 26086 9
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... After the fall of Batista in 1959, the poet Heberto Padilla, then 27 and living in New York, returned elatedly to Havana, joining the staff of the paper Revolucion. Thus helping to create the god who would later fail him. In 1961 the First Congress of Cuban Writers and Artists was held, its motto being ‘To Defend the Revolution is to Defend Culture’; simultaneously, Padilla says, it became clear that membership of the new Writers’ Union was to depend on approval by the National Board of Culture, a body designed to prevent any repetition of the Pasternak affair ...

Infante’s Inferno

G. Cabrera Infante, 18 November 1982

Legacies: Selected Poems 
by Heberto Padilla, translated by Alastair Reid and Andrew Hurley.
Faber, 179 pp., £8.75, September 1982, 0 374 18472 0
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... with delusions of a grander guignol, and is apposite only because you cannot understand Heberto Padilla’s poems unless you know about Padilla’s hard times in Cuba. With him, as Sebastian Venable pretended, the life of the poet is really the work of the poet, and ...

Solitude and Multitude

Tony Gould, 13 February 1992

Pablo Neruda: Absence and Presence 
by Luis Poirot, translated by Alastair Reid.
Norton, 185 pp., £25, March 1991, 0 393 02770 8
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Adios, Poeta 
by Jorge Edwards.
Tusquets Editores, 335 pp., ptas 1,800, November 1990, 84 7223 191 7
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... impertinence. So when Jorge Edwards fell foul of them for siding with the ‘dissident’ poet Heberto Padilla during his time as chargé d’affaires there, Neruda insisted on having him as his assistant at the Paris Embassy, a plum posting for someone who might otherwise have been in diplomatic disgrace. In his Memoirs Neruda merely writes: ‘My ...

Little Viper

Lorna Scott Fox: Mario Vargas Llosa, 17 September 1998

TheNotebooks of Don Rigoberto 
by Mario Vargas Llosa, translated by Edith Grossman.
Faber, 259 pp., £15.99, July 1998, 0 571 19309 9
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... continuing (some thought self-interested) loyalty to Castro after the show-trial of the Cuban poet Heberto Padilla in 1971. And Octavio Paz forced many readers to make an awkward distinction between his political views and his writing when, late in life and in the name of order, he became a member of the putrid Mexican Institutional Revolutionary ...


Elisa Segrave: On the Pier at Key West, 18 April 1996

... at the hands of the Cuban Government. It describes the public ‘confession’ of the poet Heberto Padilla, who after thirty days in detention denounced friends, fellow writers and even his wife for holding ‘counter-revolutionary attitudes’. It was about this time, the early Seventies, that I and several of my friends had a high opinion of ...

Solve, Struggle, Invent

Rachel Nolan: Cuba Speaks, 6 June 2024

How Things Fall Apart: What Happened to the Cuban Revolution 
by Elizabeth Dore.
Apollo, 341 pp., £10.99, August 2023, 978 1 80328 381 4
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The Tribe: Portraits of Cuba 
by Carlos Manuel Álvarez, translated by Frank Wynne and Rahul Bery.
Fitzcarraldo, 336 pp., £12.99, May 2022, 978 1 913097 91 2
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... like this: ‘Within the revolution, everything. Against the revolution, nothing.’ The Padilla Affair, directed by Pavel Giroud and released in 2022, concerns the case of Heberto Padilla, a poet accused of writing ‘critical and ahistorical literature’ and imprisoned for ‘betrayal of the homeland’ in ...

Disaffiliate, Reaffiliate, Kill Again

Jeremy Harding: Régis Debray, 7 February 2008

Praised Be Our Lords: The Autobiography 
by Régis Debray, translated by John Howe.
Verso, 328 pp., £19.99, April 2007, 978 1 84467 140 3
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... he’d heard that Fidel had endorsed the invasion of Czechoslovakia; and in Chile that the poet Heberto Padilla had been forced into a humiliating self-denunciation of the kind that’s nowadays inflicted on the staff of large corporations. By 1989, when the veteran revolutionary Tony de la Guardia went to the firing squad with General Arnaldo Ochoa ...

Bites from the Bearded Crocodile

G. Cabrera Infante, 4 June 1981

... who hated Sunday painters and minor poets, was pet poet and pet pest on the magazine. Heber to Padilla, born in the same town as Baragano (the funnily-named Puerta de Golpe in Cuban tobacco country: Puerta de Golpe literally means, as if Larry Grayson had named it, ‘Shut the Door’), came from exile in the Berlitz Academy in New York, and cultivated an ...

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