Many critics consider The Initials of the Earth
to be the quintessential novel of the Cuban Revolution and the finest work by the Cuban writer and filmmaker Jesús Díaz. Born in Havana in 1941, Díaz was a witness to the Revolution and ardent supporter of it until the last decade of his life. In 1992 he took up residence as an exile in Berlin and later in Madrid, where he died in 2002. This is the first of his books to be translated into English.
Originally written in the 1970s, then rewritten and published simultaneously in Havana and Madrid in 1987, The Initials of the Earth spans the tumultuous years from the 1950s until the 1970s, encompassing the Revolution and its immediate aftermath. The novel opens as the protagonist, Carlos Pérez Cifredo, sits down to fill out a questionnaire for readmission to the Cuban Communist Party. It closes with Carlos standing before a panel of Party members charged with assessing his merit as an “exemplary worker.” The chapters between relate Carlos’s experiences of the pre- and postrevolutionary era. His family is torn apart as some members reject the Revolution and flee the country while others, including Carlos, choose to stay. He witnesses key events including the Bay of Pigs invasion, the Cuban missile crisis, and the economically disastrous sugar harvest of 1970. Throughout the novel, Díaz vividly renders Cuban culture through humor, slogans, and slang; Afro-Cuban religion; and references to popular music, movies, and comics.
This edition of The Initials of the Earth includes a bibliography and filmography of Diaz’s works and a timeline of the major events of the Cuban revolutionary period. In his epilogue, the Cuban writer Ambrosio Fornet reflects on Díaz’s surprising 1992 renunciation of the Revolution, their decades-long friendship, and the novel’s reception, structure, and place within Cuban literary history.
The Initials of the Earth by Jesus Diaz 3
Epilogue / Ambrosio Fornet 371
Afterword / Kathleen Ross 395
Foreword / Fredric Jameson xi
Translator’s Preface / Kathleen Ross xvii
Brief Chronology of Events in Cuba, 1942–75 xxi
“The Initials of the Earth is an emblematic novel of the Cuban Revolution, and the most significant of those set in the Cuba of the 1960s. . . . [It] is the novel that gives voice to the ways in which Cubans—and particularly young revolutionaries—experienced [those] years of epic change and crisis.”—Ambrosio Fornet, from the epilogue
“This translation of Las Iniciales de la tierra is an exceptional event, and a rare chance to experience Cuban revolutionary literature first-hand.”—Fredric Jameson, from the foreword
“The chronology, the notes, the bibliography and the map help us understand where Jesús Díaz was coming from in 1987 and where he ended up. . . . And the translation, by Kathleen Ross, is splendid: inventive, idiomatic and precise without being pedantic.”
The New York Times Book Review