Sarduy went to the equivalent of high school in Camagüey and in 1956 moved to Havana, where he began a study of medicine. With the triumph of the Cuban revolution he collaborated with the Diario libre and Lunes de revolución, pro-marxist papers. In 1960 he traveled to Paris to study at the Ecole du Louvre. There he was connected to the group of intellectuals who produced the magazine Tel Quel, particularly to philosopher François Wahl, with whom he was openly involved. Sarduy worked as a reader for Editions du Seuil and as editor and producer of the Radiodiffusion-Télévision Française. In 1972 his novel Cobra won him the Medici Prize. He was among the most brilliant essayists writing in Spanish and "a powerful baroque narrator, full of surprising resources.". As a poet, he was considered one of the greatest of his time. He was also a more or less secret painter; a major retrospective of his work was held at the Reina Sofía Museum of Madrid after his death. He died due to complications from AIDS just after finishing his autobiographical work Los pájaros de la playa.
Along with José Lezama Lima, Virgilio Piñera, and Reinaldo Arenas, Sarduy is one of the most famous Cuban writers of the twentieth century; some of his works deal explicitly with male homosexuality and transvestism.
Gestos. 1963. Novel.
De donde son los cantantes. 1967
Escrito sobre un cuerpo (Written on a body). 1969. Essays
Flamenco. 1970. Poems.
Mood Indigo. 1970. Poems.
La playa. 1971. Pieza radiofónica
La caída. 1971. Pieza radiofónica
Relato. 1971. Pieza radiofónica
Los matadores de Hormigas. 1971. Pieza radiofónica
Cobra. 1972. Novel.
Barroco. 1974. Essays
Para la voz. 1977
Big Bang. 1974. Poems
Maitreya. 1978. Novel.
Daiquiri. 1980 . Poems
La simulación. 1982.Essay.
Colibrí. 1984. Novel.
Un testigo fugaz y disfrazado. 1985 Poems
El cristo de la Rue Jacob (Christ on the Rue Jacob).1987. Essays
Nueva inestabilidad. 1987. Essays
Ensayos generales sobre el barroco. 1987. Essays
Cocuyo. 1990. Novel.
Pájaros de la playa. 1993. Published posthumously just one month after his death.
Obra Completa, Two volumes. 1999. Edited by Francois Wahl. Unesco. Paris.
Burial: Cimetière de Thiais, Thiais, Ile-de-France Region, France
Cobra and Maitreya: Two Novels by Severo Sarduy, translated by Suzanne Jill Levine
Paperback: 273 pages
Publisher: Dalkey Archive Press; 1st edition (June 1995)
Amazon: Cobra and Maitreya: Two Novels
This volume combines two avante-garde novels, published in 1972 and 1978, respectively, by this Cuban expatriate author. Both deal with a main character who undergoes a metamorphosis.
"Cobra is composed of jewel-like sentences that unfold like paper origami in convoluted proliferation. . . . Maitreya is one of the most radiant texts I have ever read, and the translation by Suzanne Jill Levine appears as seamless as a single ocean wave, spilling us from high elegance to low camp and back again without pause." -- Bruce Benderson, Cups 7-12-95
"Hypnotic, poetic and challenging." -- Gay Times 9-95
"Maitreya [is] a mesmerizing literary mosaic fusing the memories of a Caribbean sense of place with a fluid existential state where transmigration is commonplace." -- Juana Ponce de Leon, Voice Literary Supplement 5-94
"Maitreya's outrageous characters maneuver through endless passages and trapdoors, as if in a 'Tibetan Book of the Dead' recited by saucy drag queens. The dialogue can be as sharp as that of divas speculating cock size, but the sentences are sometimes as ornate as the spaces his characters inhabit, rambunctious as their makeup." -- Lawrence Chua, Voice Literary Supplement 5-94
"Sarduy rendered the epiphany of the body luminous, where the pleasure of the void meets the furious fire of the world." -- Washington Post Book World 7-31-95
Transvestism, Masculinity, and Latin American Literature: Genders Share Flesh by Ben. Sifuentes-Jauregui
Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan; 1 edition (February 23, 2002)
Amazon: Transvestism, Masculinity, and Latin American Literature: Genders Share Flesh
This book is the first of its kind—a comprehensive account of transvestism and the performance of gender in Latin American literature and culture. Ben. Sifuentes-Jaureguí explores the figure of the transvestite and his/her relation to the body through a series of canonical Latin American texts. By analyzing works by Alejo Carpentier, José Donoso, Severo Sarduy, and Manuel Puig, alongside critical works in gender studies and queer theory, Sifuentes-Jaureguí shows how transvestism operates not only to destabilize, but often to affirm sexual, gender, national, and political identities.
Gay Cuban Nation by Emilio Bejel
Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: University Of Chicago Press; 1 edition (September 1, 2001)
Amazon: Gay Cuban Nation
With Gay Cuban Nation, Emilio Bejel looks at Cuba's markedly homoerotic culture through writings about homosexuality, placing them in the social and political contexts that led up to the Cuban Revolution. By reading against the grain of a wide variety of novels, short stories, autobiographies, newspaper articles, and films, Bejel maps out a fascinating argument about the way in which different attitudes toward power and nationalism struggle for an authoritative stance on homosexual issues. Through close readings of writers such as José Martí, Alfonso Hernández-Catá, Carlos Montenegro, José Lezama Lima, Leonardo Padura Fuentes, and Reinaldo Arenas, whose heartbreaking autobiography, Before Night Falls, has enjoyed renewed popularity, Gay Cuban Nation shows that the category of homosexuality is always lurking, ghostlike, in the shadows of nationalist discourse. The book stakes out Cuba's sexual battlefield, and will challenge the homophobia of both Castro's revolutionaries and Cuban exiles in the States.
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