Barthes used to say reading needed to be an obsessive activity. By that he
meant it was preferable to become intimate with a handful of classics—to
read them again and again—instead of trying to keep up with all the
novelties. I want to thank him and my fellow students from his seminar
at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes for impressing upon me the need to blur
the boundary between reading and compulsion. Something astonishing
takes place after reading the same book many times: one begins to think
in tune with the author, which is another way of saying from the perspec-
tive of another. If reading is an adventure, rereading is the return journey
to the birthplace of the text. Several friends traveled with me on such a
journey by o√ering useful suggestions while Body of Writing took shape.
Among them, I wish to express my gratitude to Roberto González Eche-
varría and Gustavo Pérez-Firmat for their many valuable recommenda-
tions. I would also like to thank Aníbal González Pérez and the Carib-
bean Literature Series at the University of Texas, Austin, for inviting me
to read the very paper on La Habana para un Infante difunto that became
the starting point for this book. Like an inkblot on the page, Body of
Writing spread in unexpected directions during the many wonderful dis-
cussions that took place in and after a graduate class on Indigenismo I
taught at Emory University in 1994. My thanks go to all my students in
that class, as well as to Carlos Alonso and Karen Stolley for inviting me
to Emory.
Body of Writing would not have been completed without Jared Loew-
enstein, Ibero-American bibliographer at the University of Virginia,
who made available the remarkable collection of rare and unpublished
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