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Beat Writers in Revolutionary Havana

Todd F. Tietchen

Publication Year: 2010

Immediately after the Cuban Revolution, Havana fostered an important transnational intellectual and cultural scene. Later, Castro would strictly impose his vision of Cuban culture on the populace and the United States would bar its citizens from traveling to the island, but for these few fleeting years the Cuban capital was steeped in many liberal and revolutionary ideologies and influences.

Some of the most prominent figures in the Beat Movement, including Allen Ginsberg, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and Amiri Baraka, were attracted to the new Cuba as a place where people would be racially equal, sexually free, and politically enfranchised. What they experienced had resounding and lasting literary effects both on their work and on the many writers and artists they encountered and fostered.

Todd Tietchen clearly documents the multiple ways in which the Beats engaged with the scene in Havana. He also demonstrates that even in these early years the Beat movement expounded a diverse but identifiable politics.

Published by: University Press of Florida


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Title Page

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Introductory Quote

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True, indeed, behind this fantastic farce, enacted on the visible stage of society, solid things and stupendous labors are to be discover’d, existing crudely and going on in the background, to advance and tell themselves in time. Yet the truths are none the less terrible. I say that our New World democracy, however great...


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pp. xi-xiii

Long-term writing projects often send us vacillating between feelings of elation, disappointment, revelation, and even, at times, downright despair. Thanking all of those responsible for keeping us sane and focused along the way comes with its own elation and despair. While I cannot help feeling a great degree of joy and thankfulness toward...

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Introduction: The “Stranger Relations” of Beat

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pp. 1-21

On June 30, 1961, Fidel Castro delivered his now infamous address, “A True Social Revolution Produces a Cultural Revolution” (or “Words to the Intellectuals”). Offered in the wake of the failed Bay of Pigs invasion, Castro’s address represented a pivotal moment in Cuban intellectual and cultural history as his revolutionary government attempted...

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1. Hemispheric Beats (in the Bay Area and Beyond)

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pp. 22-49

At a 1961 meeting of the Fair Play for Cuba Committee, Lawrence Ferlinghetti unveiled one of his most well-known poems: “One Thousand Fearful Words for Fidel Castro.” Composed upon Ferlinghetti’s return from Havana the previous year, the poem warned Castro that he would soon be overthrown and assassinated, much like his boyhood hero Abraham...

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2. On the Crisis of the Underground and a Politics of Intractable Plurality

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pp. 50-68

According to Ronald Sukenick’s classic text on the Greenwich Village underground, Down and In (1987), postwar bohemianism and defiant intellectualism were mobilized in opposition to the white picket realities of the heteronormative nuclear family and the “waves of superpatriotism [that] were emanating from Washington.” “Pinkos and faggots” and a...

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3. Unsettling the Democratic Score Music and Urban Insurgency

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pp. 69-97

As Cruse mentions in Crisis of the Negro Intellectual, Amiri Baraka played an integral role in the Beat orbit and the Greenwich Village art scene of the 1950s. As one of the only African American writers associated with the Beat Movement—at a moment when it dwelt in close proximity to a more extensive network of artists and writers comprising the New York School...

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4. Beat Publics and the “Middle-Aged” Left

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pp. 98-119

Harold Cruse was initially inspired by the Cuban Revolution on account of the pronounced cleavage he experienced between Old and New Bohemia in Greenwich Village—a generational divide separating the aging white liberals of the Cold War era from what he viewed as the more audacious and racially mixed Beat Generation. As an ardent spokesperson of that...

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5. (Back) Toward a Stranger Democracy

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pp. 120-149

Allen Ginsberg also experienced the sexual rigidities of Cuban Revolutionary culture firsthand, while visiting the island as part of an international writers’ conference in 1965. By that point, U.S.-Cuban relations had deteriorated considerably, requiring Ginsberg to sue the U.S. State Department in order to secure the visa required to attend the conference, where...

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Coda: A New Imaginary...?

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pp. 150-159

While being interviewed by Marc Schleifer for the October 15, 1958, edition of the Village Voice, Allen Ginsberg responded to Norman Podhoretz’s infamous characterization of the Beats as “anti-intellectual” by asserting that both he and Jack Kerouac had “had the same education” as Podhoretz at Columbia University. Ginsberg’s brief retort reveals the extent...


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pp. 161-177


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pp. 179-185


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pp. 187-194

About the Author

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p. 195

E-ISBN-13: 9780813045405
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813035208
Print-ISBN-10: 0813035201

Page Count: 208
Publication Year: 2010

OCLC Number: 801843028
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Cubalogues

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Subject Headings

  • Beat generation.
  • Travelers' writings, American -- History and criticism.
  • Authors, American -- 20th century -- Travel -- Cuba.
  • Authors, American -- 20th century -- Political and social views.
  • Cuba -- In literature.
  • Revolutions in literature.
  • Political culture -- Cuba -- History -- 20th century.
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