Cardenal: “En Cuba”. Enzensberger: “Turismo revolucionario”. Linh: “Poesía de Paso”.

One continual characteristic of writings from within or about the Cuban Revolution is the centrality of the act of observation. These authors seem to embrace as a principal goal that of achieving a convincing portayal of the Revolution itself and a judgement (even if unconscious or implicit) of its success or failure. The gaze of the author becomes political when written down: this emphasis on the act of observing permeates the works of authors, such as those listed above.

I find that in his article “Turismo revolucionario,” Enzensberger examines key elements of the Western gaze in relation to socialist countries in general. He notes, for example, that an author who visits a socialist country is always judging it from without: “Siempre se emiten juicios desde fuera” (Enzensberger, 99). The fact that not only do the observers not participate in the ideology of the country, but are also treated differently than the rest of the population, produces a divorce between the reality that they absorb and the reality that surrounds them.

What I am interested in with the authors Reinaldo Arenas, Herberto Padilla, Calvert Casey, and Ernesto Cardenal is not merely the fact that they do observe and judge, but also the transformational power of their authorial gaze. In observing Cuban or American society (in accordance to their respective ideological positions) with a critical eye, they serve to delineate ever more clearly the differences between these two societies. The gaze of these authors transforms the observed society into the Other. This act of observation, of an ocular transition from the “us” towards the Other, becomes a literary-visual trespass or transgression.

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