The New York Times weighs in on the literary and political significance of Yoani Sánchez
In a wide-ranging profile of Cuban blogger Yoani Sánchez by Larry Rohter in the New York Times, the literary significance of Sánchez’s writing is explored more fully than many have appreciated.
Sánchez, whose book Havana Real: One Woman Fights to Tell the Truth About Cuba was recently published by Melville House, told Rohter that “This country is so saturated with contaminated, corrupted political discourse, with empty pamphleteering, that I wanted to explore other areas.” She went on to describe her main subject as a writer. “I write about my interior life, the intimate sphere. It’s the sentiments of one person but sums up the reality of many people and shows just how sick this society is.”
Even though the “interior life” would seem to be of little concern to the Cuban government, the fact that she writes about daily life without unqualified praise for the Castro regime has made her–and her writing–a target. Rohter writes of when the Argentinian publisher of her book Cuba Libre tried to mail her a copy. The government intercepted the book and sent her this letter:
“The content of the book entitled ‘FreeCuba‘ transgresses against the general interests of the nation, in that it argues that certain political and economic changes are necessary in Cuba in order for its citizens to enjoy greater material well-being and attain personal fulfillment,” stated the document, which Ms. Sánchez posted on her Web site. Such positions “are extremes totally contrary to the principles of our society.”
Sánchez takes her craft as a writer and blogger seriously but she has at times been thrust into a role that she never intended when she started Generation Y. “The logic of events has made her a kind of leader, perceived by people as giving voice to all the discontent of an entire generation,” Cuban novelist José Manuel Prieto told Rohter.
But as Rohter notes, it’s her power as a writer that’s made this influence possible:
Her political profile sometimes obscures Ms. Sánchez’s prose style and connection to Latin American and other literary traditions, say those familiar with her work. “She’s a very gifted writer, and she’s in a zone, like Federer playing at his best, able to choose what kind of shot she wants to make,” said Oscar Hijuelos, the Pulitzer Prize-winning writer. “She has a novelistic sensibility, but I am particularly touched by the down-to-earthiness of her portraiture, her reporting from the front lines of daily life in Cuba. She has some very interesting chops that any writer would admire.”
Ms. Sánchez seems particularly drawn to the essaylike genre known as the crónica, or chronicle, which she has helped bring into the 21st century by putting it online in compressed form. “With her focus on the quotidian, she is very much a part of that tradition,” said Enrique Del Risco, who left Cuba in 1995 and now teaches contemporary Latin American literature at New York University “It’s precisely that grounding in the domestic and personal plane that allows her to show how exhausting and crushing daily life can be.”