The literary work of Jesús Díaz has been translated into many languages but
appears here for the first time in English. Born in Havana in 1941, Díaz was a
writer, filmmaker, and prominent intellectual force in Cuban culture until his
sudden death in Madrid in 2002. Díaz was a complex character, a man who
lived life with passion and even excess, a controversial figure who played an
important role within the early Cuban revolutionary process and remained
allied with it until the last ten years of his life, which he lived in European
exile. To the international Cuban exile community, Díaz was a key fomenter
of dialogue between disagreeing factions of various political stripes through
the influential journal Encuentro, which he founded in Madrid; he has yet to
be replaced in that exceptional role. Díaz’s decision to leave Cuba in 1992
came as a surprise to many, if not most, who knew him. Ambrosio Fornet, in
his epilogue to this volume, provides a view of those events from the perspec-
tive of a longtime friend who has remained on the island.
The Initials of the Earth, set in Cuba during the 1950s and 1960s, speaks
eloquently to the controversial topic of the Revolution’s numerous successes
and failures. Originally written in the 1970s, then rewritten and published
simultaneously in Havana and Madrid in 1987, it was the last book Jesús Díaz
produced before leaving Cuba. Many critics consider this novel to be both
Díaz’s most outstanding work and the quintessential novel of the Cuban
Revolution (Fornet’s epilogue elaborates further on these questions of literary
history and criticism). Through Díaz’s narration of the coming of age of the
protagonist, Carlos Pérez Cifredo, we are taken on a passionate journey that
celebrates and criticizes with intense love Cuba’s music, dance, history, racial
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