Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo has been a blogger since 2008. He was born in Havana on December 10, 1971. He received his degree in Biochemistry in 1994 in Biology from the University of Havana, but left science little by little for literature, until the latter left no room for other specialties.
Among his awards are: Short Story Price from the magazines La Gaceta de Cuba in 2005, and Cauce in 2007. The New Pines Narrative Prize in 2000, for the book Collage Karaoke. The Luis Rogelios Nogueras Prize in 2000 for the book Empezar de Cero (Starting from Zero). The Calendario Prize in 2005 for the book Mi Nombre Es William Saroyan. The Photography Prize from the magazine Tablas in 2008.
Luis Orlando recently launched his book Boring Home, censored by the publisher Letras Cubanas. The book was launched in a freelance presentation during the Havana International Book Fair outside the site. During the entire week prior to the presentation, managed by Yoani Sánchez of the blog Generation Y, the author was the target of a strong police operation, and received physical threats by email and telephone. Despite this, the presentation of Boring Home was a complete success, attended by writers, photographers and bloggers of the country. 1 - When did you begin with your blogs and Pia McHabana and Lunes de la Post-Revolucion?
Pia McHabana (whoever he is) started a blog in August 2008, after one season was lost in the internet (and I think it was lost again.) In October 2008, I started to give continuity to my blog Lunes de Post-Revolución, where I published, more than posts, all my weekly columns: reviews, opinions, raves, interviews, slams, sick humor, man on the street reports on nothing, literary dreams and wet dreams wholesale. In this blog is my best work as an author. I would like to see it published in paper some day, but suspect it would be an intolerable book, un-instrumentalizable for the powers-that-be (intoolerable), another jagged little pill of Cubanesque writing dregs. A limited gesture in the so pacified Cuban camping culture. A gong of combat. A radical performance that in Cuba today constitutes editorial suicide: one of these illegible heresies that converts you into an ex-writer. 2 – Was it through these blogs that you started to be in the blogosphere, or had you published before in another digital space?
Before, I appeared sporadically in unrelated web sites, even in official journals such as Made in Cuba, such as Esquife, Alma Mater, El Caimán Barbudo and La Jiribilla. And also, of course, I got involved in alternative publishing projects like the independent magazines Cacharro(s), 33 y 1/3, the Desliz project, and my own e-zone that I wrote irregularly, The Revolution Evening Post (which I created with the Cuban writers Cuba Jorge Enrique Lage and Ahmel Péré Echevarría). In the blogs Fogonero Emergente and Penúltimos Días, among others, you can read a good part of my work as a columnist blogger. So, little by little, I’ve been developing readers and fans. In addition to the usual hateful comments attacking me personally, even from other sites like Kaos en la Red (whose Cuban section is known ungrammatically as Asko en la Red).
3 - You’ve received awards for each one of your books published in Cuba and even been a jury member for literary prizes. However, today with the freelance launch of Boring Home, you’ve received direct calls from State Security and anonymous threats by telephone and email. What do you think caused such a radical change in the official conduct with respect to yourself and your work? When did the anti-Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo digital campaign start?
Anonymous calls and messages are anonymous, so it’s not possible to charge anyone with this verbal prison violence: behind this mute mask lies precisely its quota of terror. The attacks began circulating as soon as the digital invitation for the launch of my book of stories Boring Home started circulating (the book was expelled, without even notifying me, by the State publisher Letras Cubanas which months ago had approved it and had already committed orally to publish it for the last Havana International Book Fair: the contract in Cuba comes afterward). Even earlier I heard rumors that high level functionaries read my blogger columns and they left a bad taste in their mouths (and they circulated them freely and even published them on other sites without permission). So they warned me in the Sicilian manner that I was crossing a line and there would be no going back. There was no attack that I responded to directly, because everything was meant to stigmatize me with those words that in Cuba are synonymous with outcast: dissident, mercenary, counterrevolutionary, agent, etc. (The whole voCUBAlary is so that no one will remember that I am and will continue to be a writer.) They wanted to put me up to my ass in the criminal political camp. Our cultural leaders are illiterate or read without humor: maybe between the resolutions and the checks they’ve lost their libido for academic freedom. Currently, so much discipline is saddening. The publishers shouldn’t punish their authors for their biographies (or they should recognize that their little political-moralistic schools are not publishing houses).
4 - Let's talk a little about Boring Home. Tell me the story of this book.
The book Boring Home is half a play on words where the stories matter less than the words. There are some that are relatively long and others that are just a page, but in all of them there emerges this pleasure in the taste of the words: the alliteration rather than the literary. The characters in my book, to make matters worse, are obsessed with the almost posthumous act of narration: how to compile the raw material of fiction, how to take it to the point where it provokes friction. Be it with the lyrics of a song, be it with the words of a headline, be it with the paranoid memories of a girl who runs away, be it with the pathological nostalgia for what’s gone without every leaving or what’s returned without ever having been, be it even with a rewrite of the chemical elements of the periodic table: my texts are an experiment and a inquiry about the limits of narrative in this or any context. Some of these stories were awarded prizes and published in magazines and anthologies inside and outside Cuba, from La Gaceta de Cuba to Encuentro de la Cultura Cubana. This ecumenicalism of mine, at the time, to not discriminate between publishers, was understood as my original provocation. The ban on Boring Home was never made official as I understand it, in consequence, like a provocation of Letras Cubanas against my author’s copyright: a form of negating me for my work as a blogger, an exemplary lesson for the restof my contemporaries of Generation Year Zero, even a way for the bad ones to suggest to me that I renounce in blog posts my delights-deliriums-delinquencies. But at this point in the hisotry of the fatherland, in-ev-i-ta-bly (as was repeated in the digital promotion before the launch) this bureaucratic smudge couldn’t be left without a public response. Ideally, it should be very clear that there are and will be letras cubanas—small L small C—outside and after Letras Cubanas. 5 – You succeeded in launching your book in the middle of a huge State security operation, writers came, photographers, and many people in spite of the intimidation. What do you think this might mean? Could it be considered a new horizon for the limits of censorship?
“The Last Supper of Censorship”: A good title I might soon steal from a post on your blog. Hopefully it means a gesture of head held high. A small first step for our writers on the barren lunar (and lunatic) landscape of Cuban editorial world in Cuba. And finally, a belligerent gesture of peace: we do not want to be self-censored, nor victims of any authority, but it exists and we have a right to reply, to respond under conditions that as creators will be more advantageous to us (and not necessarily through the established channels to raise an oedipal whine in the style of the XX century). We are other actors: ephemeral but effective. If the Culture Institution loses this opportunity for divergent dialog, so much the worse for it. They have to adapt to their administrative role, and not a leadership one. Or be left outside the living, mutant coordinates of Twenty-first Century Cuba that nobody dares to unveil. 6 – You also participate in Yoani Sanchez’s Blogger Journey, you have many blogs and are a part of Voces Cubanas. How does the presence of this small blogger community around you make you feel in these difficult days?
Supported. Even without necessarily understanding the full gravity of the situation, they showed solidarity, civil sympathy, and even a good sense of humor. I thank everyone. And especially Yoani Sánchez for accepting the risk of presenting my book, knowing that almost no other Cuban writer would be willing to do so. And to you, Claudia Cadelo, for opening a window for me to breathe in the middle of that stuffy atmosphere, and for this interview now. The bad readers said that they manipulated me to put on a show (even in the telephone threats they said that), but sowing this kind of filth, strictly between ourselves, is the oldest trick in the world (the hateful work of snakes). Also many wonderful Cuban readers and bloggers from the media world were at this small presentation outside La Cabaña: we didn’t even invade its walls, it was enough for us to leave symbolic graffiti next to the drawbridge of this Castle of the Kafka-baña.
7 - What do you think of the blogosphere alternative? How do you feel within that?
I feel on the margin, always on the margin. Inside and outside. Like a boxer who gives and takes, and doesn’t compromise himself too much with any boxing. I’m a perennial line of flight. I shift among Deluzean layers of an onion without a shell or a heart, so I happily earn a lucrative and playful rhizome: I write to lose face, digging my own cave of authorial resistance in the face of the zoocial consensus. I’m a surface that downplayed the despotism of the so-called essences as well as of all the sectarian isms. For the rest, I suppose that the whole blogosphere should be an alternative: the other would be salaried work (State trolls et al). I read very little on-line, but I download pages here and there that I consume later with surprise. I trust in the growing power of the call of the WWW and its respect for the citizen before the institutions and the masses. With luck, in many of these blogs the future already breathes.
This is an excerpt to a version of the song, Epitaph for Vladimir Visotski by Karsmarski Jacek (Polish dissident songwriter), which includes Ciro Diaz in his latest album, The Blue Slug, that I listened to compulsively for at least two months, especially on the street with my mp3 inherited from a friend who now has an I-pod. (Download the lyrics here) (Download the recording and album cover here) The song (in summary, which runs about ten minutes) is about a desperate artist going through the circles of hell in search of an answer or death, and at the end of his journey there is only loneliness and the weight of the supreme power above himself. So I found myself at times catching the bus across Havana at 12 noon in August under the perennial sunshine and with the distressing feeling of not going anywhere, or arriving too late, or going for pleasure ... I feel that I have already arrived at the eighth enclosure (this is the finale of the song) where there is nothing, and I feel useless and empty, and I look at people without faith who walk along the street and who have so much fear that they no longer know they're afraid, and who have seen so many Roundtables and so many news broadcasts that they no longer know what belongs to reality or just to the TV screen. They cannot discern that they no longer believe, but cannot disbelieve either, and just move along past me not going anywhere.