Jose Lezama Lima's Joyful Vision: A Study of Paradiso and Other Prose Works

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Cuba's Jose Lezama Lima became the most controversial figure in the flowering of the Latin American novel with the 1966 publication of Paradiso. Hailed as a seminal writer of breathtaking originality by Julio Cortazar, Octavio Paz, and Mario Vargas Llosa, Lezama was also attacked by the Castro regime and others for his stylistic obscurity, erotic descriptions, and violation of literary norms. Indeed, his experimental fiction, written on the very boundaries of the novelistic genre, resists classification. Jose Lezama Lima's Joyful Vision, a much-needed critical study of Paradiso, Oppiano Licario, and Lezama's essays, is thus an exploration in reading, one that highlights and preserves the essential and persistent contradictions in Lezama's theory and practice of literature. Gustavo Pellon focuses his study on Lezama's search for equilibrium, clarifying such oppositions in Lezama's writings as the mystical quest for illumination through obscurity, the calculated cultivation of naivete, the Proust-like fascination with yet ultimate condemnation of homosexuality, and a modernist (even postmodernist) narrative style that conveys a mystical (essentially medieval) worldview. Above all, Pellon shares his wonder at Lezama who, in an age of pessimism, maintained his joyful vision of art and existence.