Banned in her country of origin, Wendy Guerra talks about a lost Cuba

I NEVER WAS THE FIRST LADY By Wendy Guerra Translated by Achy Obejas In Wendy Guerra’s writing, Cuba is a character, a cosmic force, th...


I NEVER WAS THE FIRST LADY
By Wendy Guerra
Translated by Achy Obejas

In Wendy Guerra’s writing, Cuba is a character, a cosmic force, the most lonely place, the only place. Her third novel, “I was never the first lady,” reattaches the threads of island and identity until they become one. “I can’t live without these places,” she wrote. “This is all me. “

First published in Spanish in 2008, and newly translated into English by loyal Guerra translator Achy Obejas, “I Was Never the First Lady” tells the story of Nadia Guerra, an artist in Havana at the start of the 21st. century, as she struggles to find the mother who abandoned her and Cuba decades before. As in Guerra’s previous novels, “Everyone leaves” and “Revolution Sunday”, The similarities between the author and the protagonist are impossible to ignore: they are both artists in Havana, they share a last name.

While these signs suggest autofiction, Guerra’s collage style firmly opposes any genre. It incorporates poems, song lyrics, radio scripts, letters, stories within the narrative, diary entries and notes, all brought together to form a whole. The book exists in four parts, the crux of which is Nadia’s quest to find her mother. “Someone saw she was crazy,” she said of her mother, capturing the underlying hearsay stream of the book as information. “But so much time has passed since then, we assume she must be dead.” Yet, using the artist grant money and visa, Nadia follows the mystery of her mother’s chosen disappearance, traveling to Europe and gathering a contradictory map of clues from the woman’s vast network of old lovers and friends over. aged.

By the time Nadia finds her in Russia, her mother is no more than the shadow of the woman the protagonist remembers. “She left her body,” Nadia writes to her childhood friend and occasional lover, Diego. “She’s incoherent, delusional. His mind is hidden in darkness, submerged, and I cannot find it. … I know this is not the same woman we lost sight of when we were 10 years old. Nadia’s mother is a clear metaphor for Cuba itself, decaying within the borders of an old ally and filled with memories of revolution.

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