The Lovely Alma Guillermoprieto

Robert Birnbaum interviews Alma Guillermoprieto, the author of Dancing ith Cuba, about her new book. They discuss memory, revolution, pathology, and translation. Here’s a little something:

RB: I really love the stance that you take in the book about memoirs—you question the veracity of dialogues and the memories.

AG: On the one hand I made those dialogues up. On the other hand I am convinced inside me, that I didn’t. Thirty years later I wrote down what people said. I am convinced of that, the memories are so vivid. On the other hand nobody’s memory is reliable. When I went back to Cuba one time looking for some of my lead characters—and there is a character who plays a very significant role—whose memory was the most painful to me.

RB: Who was that?

AG: One of the boy dancers.

RB: The gay one?

AG: Well—

RB: —the allegedly gay one?

AG: The allegedly gay one, yeah. And they didn’t remember him. I couldn’t believe it. They didn’t remember him. And so, whose memory is reliable?

I love that.

I also think it’s part of the writer’s job to remember those who history, society, tend to forget: those who don’t quite fit in with the larger whole’s idea of what is “best” for society, or what I’ve been calling the larger whole’s idea of the larger good, which oppresses and represses.

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