Ricardo L. Ortíz
The exiled Cuban novelist Guillermo Cabrera Infante opens his Tres Tristes Tigres with an advertencia or "warning" to readers that "[e]l libro está en cubano," literally, that his novel is "in Cuban." Cabrera Infante's pronouncement works simultaneously as both a warning and an invitation, however; Tres Tristes Tigres, written in a recognizably Cuban dialectal deviation from normative Spanish, also enacts something Cuban in its play of vocalizations. Cabrera Infante goes on in the passage to describe this enactment as an attempt to "capture the human voice in flight," particularly the nocturnal jargon of those habaneros who, in the 1950s, haunted Havana's decadent underground. But to insist, as Cabrera Infante does here, that one "writes in Cuban" or, better put, that one's text "is in Cuban" is not, I think, to insist that one's Spanish merely deviates from some normative concept of Spanish. It seems less, even, about the attempt to include all the possible Spanish dialects spoken in Havana at the time of which Cabrera Infante writes, so much as about the attempt to have one's written language capture something constitutively "deviant" about the human voice, that is, of the spoken voice, at once "underground, secretive," and "in flight." What Cabrera Infante seems to propose here is the possibility of writing "in Cuban" even if one does not literally write in Spanish. Because Cabrera Infante settled in Europe rather than North America, his work does not figure prominently in the following survey, but the survey owes a profound debt to his ingenious formulation: that a text "is Cuban" to the extent to which it
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Publication information: Book title: New Immigrant Literatures in the United States:A Sourcebook to Our Multicultural Literary Heritage. Contributors: Alpana Sharma Knippling - Editor. Publisher: Greenwood Press. Place of publication: Westport, CT. Publication year: 1996. Page number: 187.
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