Critics in Cuba have yet to agree on which of Jesús Díaz’s novels is his finest,
some arguing it is the one the reader holds in his hands, from 1987; others that
it is Las palabras perdidas, published five years later. I refuse to join in such
parceling out of cups and medals—literature, as Faulkner said, is not a horse
race—but I’ve never hesitated to a≈rm that The Initials of the Earth is an
emblematic novel of the Cuban Revolution, and the most significant of those
set in the Cuba of the 1960s. I’m not sure to what degree readers outside Cuba
may be able to partake in this assessment, as they will likely lack not only
relevant points of comparison but also the experience that would permit
evaluation of the text’s referential merit. But I can assure such readers that few
works managed with more imagination and spirit to capture the complex
internal dynamics of the era from the perspective of a young participant in the
revolutionary process. Authenticity is, indeed, one of the novel’s principle
merits. The author bears witness to his reality and times with the boldness
and expressive command he had already exhibited in his first book of short
stories, and which secured for both works foundational status in contempo-
rary Cuban narrative.
I will return to this matter, but first wish to o√er a personal testimony of
my own, which may help the reader understand the di≈cult and contradic-
tory personality of a man who was first one of the most impassioned support-
ers of Cuban Revolution, and later, during the last ten years of his life, one of
its harshest critics.
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