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Exhuming Lunes de Revolucion

From: CR: The New Centennial Review
Volume 2, Number 2, Summer 2002
pp. 253-283 | 10.1353/ncr.2002.0031

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CR: The New Centennial Review 2.2 (2002) 253-283

For Tori and Kiara

THE HISTORY OF SPANISH AMERICAN LITERATURE IS BEST REPRESENTED BY ITS literary magazines. Cuban literature is a case in point. The lack of publishing houses in Cuba before 1959 allowed magazines to become an essential vehicle for disseminating literary currents during their publication period. Writers used this accessible and timely medium to identify with literary and political trends and promote their own ideas. It was no accident, for example, that the "Protesta de los 13" and the Grupo Minorista foreshadowed the Revista de Avance (1927-30). The magazine gave voice to a group of radical youths opposed to the Machado dictatorship (1927-33), and favored the vanguard tendencies of the period. During the same decade two other magazines were published: Carteles (1919-59) and Social (1916-38). Major literary figures such as Alejo Carpentier, who was editor of Carteles, contributed to Social and was on the first editorial board of the Revista de Avance (González Echevarría, 34-35), began their literary careers working with magazines.

In the mid-twentieth century, the most important literary magazine in Cuba was Orígenes (1944-56), under the leadership of José Lezama Lima and José Rodríguez Feo. Orígenes embodied the political frustration of the moment. There was no attempt in Orígenes to develop the political discourse of earlier times, but rather it sought the essence of Cuba through poetry. After breaking with the hermetic style of writing known to Orígenes and Lezama, José Rodríguez Feo with the support of Virgilio Piñera created Ciclón (1955-57, 1959), a magazine with more social awareness, which ceased publication during the Revolution. The political conscience of artists was not represented in the writings of Ciclón, but found expression with the group Nuestro Tiempo and its namesake magazine (1954-59). Guillermo Cabrera Infante and Carlos Franqui, among others, founded the group in 1950, but later surrendered it to the influence of the Cuban Communist Party (Partido Socialista Popular). Writers such as Nicolás Guillén, Onelio Jorge Cardoso, and Pablo Armando Fernández, were among its many contributors.

The number of magazines increased with the triumph of the Cuban Revolution. The first, and the most important one, was Lunes de Revolución, the literary supplement of Revolución, the official newspaper of the July 26 Movement that brought Fidel Castro to power. Distributed on Mondays with Revolución, Lunes de Revolución was the most widely read literary supplement in the history of Cuban and Latin American literatures. The newspaper was edited by one of Castro's advisors, Carlos Franqui, and the supplement by Guillermo Cabrera Infante and assistant editor Pablo Armando Fernández. Lunes was in print for two and one-half years, from March 23, 1959, to November 6, 1961, expanding from the first issue of six pages to the last issue of 64 pages. It started with a circulation of 100,000 and surpassed 250,000, greater than other comparable publications of larger countries, including the U.S.'s New York Review of Books.

Cabrera Infante gave Lunes its name, but the magazine was Franqui's idea; Cabrera Infante considers Franqui to be one of the most important promoters of Cuban culture of this century. Franqui had ample experience in the field of culture; he founded Mella, 1941-42, Nueva Generación in 1948, and Nuestro Tiempo in 1950. These three cultural avenues allowed young writers to express their political and literary ideas. He also originated Revolución and Radio Rebelde, during the clandestine period in 1952 and after Batista left the country in 1959. With the Rebel Army's control of the government and his continued interest in culture, Franqui envisioned a literary supplement for the newspaper. He asked his close friend Cabrera Infante, who at that time was fiction editor and movie critic for Carteles and movie critic for Revolución, to take charge of the magazine. To make the supplement run smoothly, Cabrera Infante enlisted the help of Fernández, who at that time lived in New York. Cabrera Infante recruited Fernández when he, Franqui, and other important...