Havana Transfigured: Return of the Repressed ‘Other’ in Padura´s Máscaras

By Maite Villoria Nolla.

Published by The Humanities Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

In his 1997 novel Máscaras, Leonardo Padura uses the detective fiction genre to represent the repressed other in Cuban society—sexual, ideological, religious, and artistic. This inquiry beneath the surface and behind masks runs counter to the strictures of the Cuban state, which demands that Cubanismo be imagined/represented as a socialist paradise. This essay analyzes Padura’s novel as a realization of Lezama Lima’s notion that Cubanismo could only be articulated via “poetic transfiguration”. But symbols are dangerous because they are poly-vocal and cannot be controlled by authority; hence, we are confronted to the repression of the imaginary in post-revolutionary Cuba. In Máscaras, Padura envisions this “poetic transfiguration” as returning in distorted form: via a transvestite’s staging of the religious tradition of transfiguration. In the family murder at the heart of this deeply psychological and Caribbean transformation of the hard-boiled genre, Padura puts a thought-provoking twist on the template of transfiguration as a moment before death, or before crossing into a new world or social order, in which the voice of the father glorifies the son. Through the uncovering of the masked truth about this intrafamilial murder, Padura effects a symbolic integration of Cuba’s repressed otherness.

Keywords: Cuban Narrative, Leonardo Padura, Transfiguration, Return of the Repressed, Politics of Recognition

The International Journal of the Humanities, Volume 5, Issue 9, pp.41-48. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 549.952KB).

Dr. Maite Villoria Nolla

Lecturer in Spanish, Modern Languages and Literatures, The University of West Indies, Kingston, Jamaica

PhD (The University of Nottingham, UK) Currently teaching at the Modern Languages Department at the University of West Indies, Mona Campus. The teaching involves Language and Spanish/Spanish American Cultural Studies and Literatures. My research interests include the appearance of criminal in Hipanic Literature, the rearticulation of Urban Imaginaries in Latin American literature and film and Barcelona and its imaginaries.

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