Samuli Arkko: Castron kastraatio
Jyväskylä Studies in Humanities 291. University of Jyväskylä 2016
This dissertation explores how Pedro Juan Gutiérrez’s fiction corresponds to the Castro-communist utopia. The study has three goals: (1) to explain how Castro-communism has formed, altered and impacted on Cuban literature; (2) to investigate how Gutiérrez’s fiction corresponds to the Castro-communist utopia and ideals; and (3) how his parodic (anti)detective story Nuestro GG en La Habana (2004) is based on and relates to Cuban socialist detective stories, Graham Greene’s spy farce Our Man in Havana, Castro-communist historiography and the social, ideological and economic shifts in Cuban society during the 1990s.
Previous studies on Gutiérrez’s fiction have focused almost exclusively on the autobiographical nature of the Ciclo de Centro Habana, a series of five books published in Spain between 1998 and 2003. Research on Gutiérrez has both argued that his “dirty realism” revokes the ideal of the Guevarian New Man and defined him as an apolitical author. The relationship between Cuban fiction and Castro-communism is a fundamental question in research on Cuban literature, because of the authoritarian nature of the Cuban regime with its censorship, oppression and lack of freedom of speech. I argue that research on Cuban literature needs to observe Castro-communist cultural politics in order to recognize how Castro-communism dictated for decades the literary orthodoxy.
I resort to the concept of “ideological fantasy”, formulated by Slavoj Žižek, in order to sketch the fundamental tenets of Castro-communism. From this theoretical background, I analyse in depth four of Gutiérrez’s novels and three of his short story collections in relation to their cultural and historical context and the Castro-communist literary tradition. In particular, I investigate Nuestro GG en La Habana, the only work of Gutiérrez that takes place in the 1950s pre-revolutionary Cuba. Gutiérrez’s (anti)detective story is a parody of Graham Greene’s Our Man in Havana. Since parody is an innately intertextual technique, valid interpretations arise in a two-way movement between the subject of the research, the explicit intertexts (like Greene and his ”spy farce”), the implicit intertexts, and other intertextual and cultural-historical references.
The research findings illustrate how Gutiérrez’s fiction functions as a two-way movement between critical dissidence and silent submission. Dirty realistic or naturalistic tendencies unveil an unpleasant Cuban reality behind the idealized images of the Castro-communist utopia. Regardless of the occasionally cruel depiction of Cubans, a cynical indifference distances Gutiérrez’s approach from outright social criticism. Eventually, irony doesn’t revoke the dominance of Castro-communism. Contrary to some prior studies, I argue that Gutiérrez’s fiction cannot be classified simply as counter-revolutionary. The sadistic features of the protagonist repeat as a reflection the oppressive politics of the Castro-communist tyranny. This side of him offers a miniature version or a caricature of the dictator. In the utopia, he is the king of Havana, but outside of the discursive realm, he has lost his omnipotence. This study advances our understanding of how Gutiérrez’s fiction, as a part of the boom of Cuban literature in the 1990s, disengaged itself from the old monolithic vision of the Castro-communist utopia sustained by its cultural politics.