Sarduy, Severo (1937–1993)

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Sarduy, Severo (1937–1993)

Severo Sarduy (b. 25 February 1937; d. 8 June 1993), Cuban novelist, poet, and essayist. Sarduy was born in Camagüey. In 1956 he moved to Havana, where he came in contact with the vital community of writers associated with the literary magazine Ciclón and where he began to publish poetry. He studied medicine for two years at the University of Havana, but left to concentrate on writing. After the Cuban Revolution of 1959, he became a contributor to Lunes de Revolución, a literary weekly edited by Guillermo Cabrera Infante.

In 1960 Sarduy left for France to study art history at the École du Louvre. From 1964 to 1967 he continued his studies in Paris and became a member of two influential literary groups associated with the publications Mundo Nuevo, edited by the critic Emir Rodríguez Monegal, and Tel quel, the most influential French publication of the 1960s and 1970s, where he collaborated with Roland Barthes. As editor of the Latin American collection of Éditions du Seuil since 1966, Sarduy has been responsible for launching the writers Gabriel García Márquez, José Lezama Lima, Jorge Luis Borges, and Guillermo Cabrera Infante into the French arena. In 1971 he was awarded the Prix Paul Gilson for his radio play La playa (The Beach). The following year his novel Cobra received the prestigious Prix Médici, and another radio play, Relato, won the Prix Italia.

Sarduy's work has received enormous critical acclaim, as he is one of the most innovative of Latin American writers. An aesthetic heir of Cuban master José Lezama Lima, for whom he professes great admiration, he uses a rich, elaborately baroque style to combine such seemingly disparate elements as Cuban folklore and music and the art, philosophy, and religion of the Far East. His work has been translated into many languages.

Sarduy's best-known works are De dónde son los cantantes (From Cuba with a Song [novel, 1967]), La playa (play, 1971), Cobra (novel, 1972), Relato (play, 1972), and Maitreya (novel, 1980; trans. 1987). He died of AIDS in Paris.

See alsoBorges, Jorge Luis; García Márquez, Gabriel; Havana; Literature: Spanish America.


Julia Alexis Kushigian deals extensively with Sarduy in Orientalism in the Hispanic Literary Tradition (1991). The most authoritative source on Sarduy's work is Roberto González Echevarría, La ruta de Severo Sarduy (1986).

See also Jorge Aguilar Mora, Severo Sarduy (1976); Adriana Méndez Ródenas, Severo Sarduy: El neobarroco de la transgresión (1983); Oscar Montero, The Name Game: The Semiotic Intertext of "De dónde son los cantantes" (1988).

Additional Bibliography

Fernández, Nancy, and Ignacio Iriarte. Fumarolas de jade: Las poéticas neobarrocas de Severo Sarduy y Antonio Carrera. Mar del Plata: E. Balder, 2002.

González, Oneyda. Severo Sarduy: Escrito sobre un rostro. Camagüey: Editorial Ácana, 2003.

Gotera, Johan. Severo Sarduy: Alcances de una novelística y otros ensayos. Caracas: Monte Avila Editores Latinoa-mericana, 2005.

Machover, Jacobo. La memoria frente al poder: Escritores cubanos del exilio: Guillermo Cabrera Infante, Severo Sarduy, Reinaldo Arenas. Valencia: Universitat de València, 2001.

                                      Roberto Valero