Yocandra in the Paradise of Nada: A Novel of Cuba

Yocandra in the Paradise of Nada: A Novel of Cuba

by Zoe Valdes
     
 

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Born the year of Castro's Revolution, the daughter of a hero of the sugarcane harvest - Che Guevara himself draped a Cuban flag across her mother's pregnant belly - Yocandra embodies its promise and hope. But she grows up to see how the regime is turning her beautiful island into a wasteland of despair, and embarks on her own course of survival. At sixteen she begins… See more details below

Overview

Born the year of Castro's Revolution, the daughter of a hero of the sugarcane harvest - Che Guevara himself draped a Cuban flag across her mother's pregnant belly - Yocandra embodies its promise and hope. But she grows up to see how the regime is turning her beautiful island into a wasteland of despair, and embarks on her own course of survival. At sixteen she begins shacking up with the Traitor, a self-styled philosopher and poet whose much-vaunted and long-awaited novel is as phony as its author; later, she takes up with the Nihilist, a filmmaker with no films to his credit because the authorities have banned them all as anti-Cuban. Along the way, we meet Yocandra's best friend, the Gusana, whose ticket out of Cuba is loveless marriage to an overweight Spaniard; and the Lynx, an artist and aesthete who floats his way into exile strapped to a raft. For Yocandra and her friends, coping with life in Cuba means escaping into dreams, humor, and sex, and developing an appetite for the absurdities of existence. Kindred spirits and lost souls, their rebellion and rage against El Comandante and his rule also express their fierce love for their country, a patriotism that can feel like a prison sentence.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
"There are those who maintain that people throw themselves into the sea over insignificant economic deprivations," writes Valdes of young Cubans desperate enough to raft their way off the island, "but anyone who says that simply doesn't know Cuba, doesn't know the hunger and the terror the Cuban people have known." Already published in Germany, Spain and France, this brief first novel exposes the longing and suffering of Cuban society through the life of a woman named Patria, or Yocandra as she renames herself. Born during the 1959 revolution, Yocandra grows up in the gap between the promises of justice and reform and the reality of frustration and apathy. In this country where happiness means that the electricity works occasionally or a pizza with a cheese substitute from China is available for purchase, Yocandra tries to satisfy her burning thirst for life through writing and passionate sex with a series of lovers. Exuberant and uninhibited, Yocandra brims with acerbic insight, philosophy and eroticism. Her exhausting, painful unfulfillment pervades the author's prose. ("Is this a garden or a cemetery? I want a garden. I need a garden. How proud I am to be Cuban! How terrified I am to be Cuban!") Not a comfortable read, this tale seeks to tell the truth about the state of Cuba's soul, searing like skin under the hot Cuban sun. (May)
Library Journal
This highly erotic, seemingly autobiographical novel by Cuban writer Valds describes narrator Yocandra's series of relationships with allegorical charactersfraudulent writer Traitor, filmmaker Nihilist, aesthete Lynx, and the best friend Gusana ("worm"), a pejorative term for nonpatriots. As a wry, if not outright humorous, indictment of Castro's Cuba (the Nada, or "nothing," of the title), this portrayal of the bleak reality of quotidian life in his regime is offset by occasional intertextual references (Lezama Lima comes especially to mind). The fluid translation introduces English-speaking audiences to the first fruits of a highly imaginative writer.Lawrence Olszewski, OCLC Lib., Dublin, Ohio
Kirkus Reviews
Yocandra In The Paradise Of Nada ( May 1, 1997; 160 pp.; 1- 55970-362-8): A zestful portrayal of a young woman revolutionary in today's Cuba adroitly juxtaposes its questing heroine's hopeful energies to the desiccated sensibilities of the annoyingly generic men (including the Traitor and the Nihilist, among others) whom she expects to become both lovers and mentors. Valdés further contrasts the sterility of a self-consciously macho Marxist society with the almost frightening fertility of the land and, by implication, the women who surround them. A sexually forthright and amusing contemporary Candide (or, if you will, Candy).

Miami Herald
“"A knockout."”
Oscar Hijeulos
““Zoé Valdés . . . thrills and shocks her readers the way Céline once did. . . . Entertaining and lusty.””
Washington Times
““A bawdy, erotic, and existential novel . . . Literate and funny, poignant and realistic . . . glows with life and energy.””
From the Publisher
““A sexually forthright and amusing contemporary Candide.””

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781559704762
Publisher:
Arcade Publishing
Publication date:
09/15/1999
Pages:
192
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.25(h) x 0.50(d)

What People are saying about this

Oscar Hijuelos
Yocandra in the Paradise of Nada is a refreshingly frank and uncompromising novel about a vivacious young woman coping with chaos, love, and the ups and downs of revolutionary life in Cuba. Entertaining and lusty, it evokes political stereotypes: there is no pro-Castro or anti-Castro agenda here, only the agenda of the self -- and the glorious "self" at that. Zoe Valdez is a real writer who shocks her readers that Celine once did.

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