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Caliban and Other Essays

1989
Author:

Roberto Fernández Retamar
Translated by Edward Baker
Foreword by Fredric Jameson

Caliban and Other Essays

Cultural and literary essays by a Cuban poet, essayist, and professor of philology who is known for his meticulous efforts to dismantle Eurocentric colonial and neocolonial thought. “Caliban”—the first and longest of the five essays in this book—has become a kind of manifesto for Latin American and Caribbean writers; its central figure, the rude savage of Shakespeare’s Tempest, becomes in Retamar’s hands a powerful metaphor of their cultural situation—both in its marginality and its revolutionary potential.

Cultural and literary essays by a Cuban poet, essayist, and professor of philology who is known for his meticulous efforts to dismantle Eurocentric colonial and neocolonial thought. “Caliban”—the first and longest of the five essays in this book—has become a kind of manifesto for Latin American and Caribbean writers; its central figure, the rude savage of Shakespeare’s Tempest, becomes in Retamar’s hands a powerful metaphor of their cultural situation—both in its marginality and its revolutionary potential.

In the sixties, when the title essay of this collection appeared, it expressed the combative, self-assertive, and independent spirit spearheaded in Latin America by the Cuban Revolution. Retamar’s essay was not only an answer to José Enrique Rodó’s Ariel, the most influential essay ever written in Latin America, but also in a way a culmination of the Uruguayan’s program to chart an original course for Latin American culture, one that would steer clear of U.S. influence. This volume will be useful in courses dealing with contemporary Latin American culture.

Hispanic American Historical Review

Roberto Fernández Retamar-poet, essayist, and professor of philology at the University of Havana-has long served as the Cuban Revolution’s primary cultural and literary voice. An erudite and widely respected hispanist, Retamar is known for his meticulous efforts to dismantle Eurocentric colonial and neocolonial thought. Since its publication in Cuba in 1971, “Caliban”-the first and longest of the five essays in this book-has become a kind of manifesto for Latin American and Caribbean writers; its central figure, the rude savage of Shakespeare’s Tempest, becomes in Retamar’s hands a powerful metaphor of their cultural situation-both its marginality and its revolutionary potential.

Retamr finds the literary and historic origins of Caliban in Columbus’s Navigation Log Books, wher the Carib Indian becomes a cannibal, a bestial human being situated on the margins of civilization. The concept traveled from Montaigne to Shakespeare, on down to Ernest Renan and, in the twentieth century, to Aimé Césaire and other writers who consciously worked with or against the vivid symbolic figures of Prospero, Calivan, and Ariel. Retamar draws especially upon the life and work of José Marti, who died in 1895 in Cuba’s revolutionary struggle against Spain; Marti’s Calibanesque vision of “our America” and its distinctive mestizo culture-Indian, African, and European-is an animating force in this essay and throughout the book.

Caliban and Other Essays

In the sixties, when the title essay of this collection appeared, it expressed the combative, self-assertive, and independent spirit spearheaded in Latin America by the Cuban Revolution. Retamar’s essay was not only an answer to José Enrique Rodó’s Ariel, the most influential essay ever written in Latin America, but also in a way a culmination of the Uruguayan’s program to chart an original course for Latin American culture, one that would steer clear of U.S. influence. This volume will be useful in courses dealing with contemporary Latin American culture.

Hispanic American Historical Review

About This Book