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Reading Lezama’s «Paradiso»

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William Rowlandson

This book focuses on the novel Paradiso of Cuban author José Lezama Lima (1910-1976), and in particular on the protagonist José Cemí. It examines the development of Cemí according to the three distinct phases detailed by Lezama: the ‘placentario’ world of family protection, the awakening to the exterior world and the subsequent friendships made, and the eventual encounters with Oppiano Licario. Cemí’s progression, and his growing ability to interpret and create texts, is analysed as analogous to the reader’s progression through the novel. In this respect, both the reader and Cemí are obliged to interpret the complex symbolism according to interpretative skills acquired from the text itself. In a similar fashion, the connection between Cemí’s ‘guide’ Licario, and the author Lezama is investigated. By exploring these connections between reader and protagonist, author and character, the author of this work suggests a radical and hitherto unexplored approach to the text of Lezama.
Contents: The archetypal child of Lezama’s text – ‘El Tío Alberto’ – Homosexuality and the trio of friends – ‘Los agrupamientos de Cemí’: perception and creation – Chapter XII of Paradiso: Cemí’s first act of poetic creation – The creation of language: the creation of reality – El encuentro con Licario – ‘La caída de Licario - la caída del Ícaro’ – The funeral night of Licario - the cyclical nature of Paradiso.