quarta-feira, maio 07, 2008

Virgilio Piñera, our greatest playwright

Virgilio Piñera, our greatest playwright

By Ignacio M. Doubrechatt

Cubanow.- Because Virgilio was one of a kind, an unrepeatable man we could say, which is evidenced by the singularity of his writing, characterized by its incisive nature and its sharp critical sense.
By Ignacio M. Doubrechatt
Theater is a passion, an experience that takes possession of our lives and becomes stronger on the stage, amid lights and shadows, from the gesture and the word. That is the key to the dramaturgy of the indisputable master of our dramatic literature, Virgilio Piñera. He was also a great poet, as evidenced by his classic The island in weight, where he used a very personal poetry that was not influenced by any ism or banal trend.
Because Virgilio was one of a kind, an unrepeatable man we could say, which is evidenced by the singularity of his writing, characterized by its incisive nature and its sharp critical sense.
The Cuban poetry that appeared in 1936 and was compiled by Juan Ramón Jiménez, will come to us like a lyrical voice through his poem ¨The mute scream¨. Piñera was a narrator, a storyteller, a novelist, an essayist and a very feared critic because of his astuteness and his causticity. Theater, however, is the place where his poetry will fit right in, which will make him become a classic of Cuban literature and the greatest playwright of our entire literary history.
His work will also be present in several publications, with poems that were published in the Espuela de Plata (Silver Spur) magazine (1939-1941), whose director was José Lezama Lima. Works of Cuban culture in times of abulia and grief, like Verbum and Nobody, seemed to set the precedents for another magazine which is a required turning point in the history of the Cuban culture of the 20th century: Orígenes (Origins) (1944-1956).
Virgilio rises up in the horizon and publishes The furies, his first collection of poems, in the Silver Spur magazine. He also writes and stages one of his greatest plays, Electra Garrigó; a personal version of a Greek story, in which we can discern not only the fighting spirit of the playwright, but also the elements that characterize his poetics.
As a critic, he also offers a very personal and always controversial approach – because of his transgressive meaning – of other great poets. In his essay ¨Two poems, two poets, two different poetries¨, he writes about two essential texts of Cuban poetry: ¨Elegy without a name¨ (1936), by Emilio Ballagas, and ¨Narciso´s death¨ (1937), by José Lezama Lima.
With his long poem ¨The island in weight¨, Piñera puts himself into the scene of the Cuban poetry of the 20th century. He breaks away with dogmas, conceptions and rituals and stands out as a unique voice within that promotion dominated by the members of the Origins group. They were Virgilio´s coevals, with whom he shared agreements and disagreements for the passion and coherence of his aesthetic principles.
Piñera settles down in Buenos Aires, the capital of Argentina and the center of an intense cultural life, and works for important publications like the South and Buenos Aires´ Annals magazines. He keeps sending his work to the Origins magazine from that privileged place.
When he comes back, and after the opening of his Electra Garrigó at the Prometeo´s, he gets very favourable reviews and focuses on theatre to write another play, Jesus, for which he wins the Second Award at the Theater Contest of the Dramatic Arts Academy. Within the absurd trend, which he would explore like nobody else in Cuban theatre, Piñera wrote his play False alarm, considered the first expression of theatre of the absurd in Spanish America and published by the Origins magazine.
Virgilio also shows his narrative skills in his novel Rene’s flesh, published in Buenos Aires, and he gives several lectures in Argentina. When he returns to Cuba, he gets into storytelling and writes ¨The great Baro¨. Then he goes back to South America, a very favourable environment for his intellectual enrichment in the nation that breathed the air of Jorge Luis Borges´.
Disagreements and conflicts caused the division and the birth of another significant magazine in the history of Cuban culture: Ciclón (Cyclone). It was directed by José Rodríguez Feo, with whom Virgilio Piñera worked by sending him his texts from the Argentinean capital. His Cold stories would first see the light in that city, and he starts writing another novel, Small maneuvers, while the South magazine publishes his short-stories ¨The flesh¨, ¨The Fall¨ and ¨Hell¨.
In June, his play False alarm is presented at the Lyceum Society theatre, while other short-stories from Virgilio are published in several newspapers. He writes his play The wedding, which will be staged under the direction of Adolfo de Luis. After that, he starts writing one of his most important plays, Cold air.
His plays are presented in theatres and in television. In Cuba and in other countries, he publishes novels, short-stories, poems and plays like Two old panics, winner of the House of the Americas Award.
He never rested. We can see that today –and we have seen it for the last decades – as Vigrilio takes possession of Cuban theatre and talks to the young generations where he finds the feedback he needs for his spirit.
• The author is a writer and a journalist, specialized in cultural topics.
• Translation by Vidal VieraJuly 23, 2007

FONTE (photo include): http://www.cubanow.cult.cu/

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