Realigning revolution : the poetics of disappointment in Cuban and Angolan narrative
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This dissertation traces how Cuban and Angolan novels published in the final decades of the twentieth century engage with the political and artistic projects promoted by and through the post-revolutionary socialist-aligned political systems. The dissertation sustains that there are a collection of textual practices that insert themselves into the official “orthodox” historiographic and literary debates by reconsidering not just historical moments in the past that are central to these debates, but also reference how these moments are written and read from an official point of view. By employing tactics of ironic citation, parody and anachronism, these works not only comment upon official readings of history and demands of post-revolutionary literature, but they also reveal “silences,” to use Rolph-Trouillot’s term, in the literary corpus and in the experiences of Angolan and Cuban people that these alternative corpuses represent. Through revision of official discourses, they present an alternative reading of present subjects’ interactions with the past. These practices, which together I have termed “poetics of disappointment,” allow an intervention into the discussions surrounding both the production and the criticism of contemporary Cuban and Angolan literatures from a variety of political perspectives. The dissertation analyzes Cubans Alejo Carpentier’s La consagración de la primavera, Reinaldo Arenas’ La loma del ángel and Eliseo Alberto’s Caracol Beach as well as Angolans Manuel Rui’s Memória de mar, J. E. Agualusa’s Nação crioula and Boaventura Cardoso’s Mãe, materno mar. On one hand, these works recall the monumental events that the Cuban Revolution and Angolan independence represented, evoking a collective optimism and sense of community forged among pueblos/ povos in the processes of decolonization and promoting movements for social justice. On the other hand, the novels analyzed point out the limits of programmatic interpretations of post-revolutionary history. Demonstrating positions of discomfort with the notions of messianic immanence, idealized racial synthesis and the aftermaths of violence and displacement that official sources rarely document, these novels both privilege and question literary creation as a way of negotiating this disappointment.