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Roberto Fernández Retamar


Roberto Fernández Retamar is a poet, essayist, and internationally renowned scholar. A former visiting scholar at Yale, he has published over twenty volumes of poetry and is the foremost scholar of José Martí working today. His book of essays in the collection Calibán remains among the most widely discussed in the Americas. Since 1965 he has directed the journal of "Casa de las Américas", the illustrious literary institution and publishing house he has presided over since 1986.

Professor of philology at the University of Havana, he 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 thoughts. Since its publication in Cuba in 1971, Calibán - the first and longest of the 5 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. Retamar finds the literary and historic origins of Calibán in Columbus's Navigation Log Books, where the 'Carib' Indian becomes a 'cannibal', a bestial human being situated on the margins of civilization. The concept traveled from Montaigne to Shakespeare, on to Ernest Renan and, in the 20th century, to Aime Cesaire and other writers who consciously worked with or against the vivid symbolic figures of Prospero, Calibán, and Ariel.


Retamar draws especially upon the life and work of José Martí, who died in 1895 in Cuba's revolutionary struggle against Spain; Martí'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.

Among his poetic work are Elegía como un himno (Elegy as an hymn) (1950); Patrias (Homelands) (1952); Vuelta de la antigua esperanza (Returning from the Ancient Hoping) (1959); Buena suerte viviendo (Good Luck Living) (1967); Juana y otros temas personales (Juana and Other Personal Themes) (1981); Aquí (Here) (1995), which are some of the most remarkable compositions of our Cuban Contemporary Literature. Among his relevant studies and socio-cultural essays are Idea de la estilística (Idea of Stylistic) (1958); Ensayo de otro mundo (Essay of other world) (1967); Calibán (1971) and Introducción a Martí (Introduction to Martí) (1978).

“One of the most distinguished Latin American intellectuals of the twentieth century.”Professor De Castro Rocha, University of Manchester

"Roberto Fernández Retamar’s work is the conscience of poetry"Alejo Carpentier

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