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Paradiso Paperback – 25 Sep 2009


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Product details

  • Paperback: 466 pages
  • Publisher: Dalkey Archive Press; 1st Dalkey Archive Ed edition (25 Sept. 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 156478228X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1564782281
  • Product Dimensions: 22.9 x 15.2 x 3.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 451,513 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"... Paradiso has the 'leaps of imagination' which have come to associated with the best contemporary Spanish literature." -- Jack Friedman, Village Voice "[An] extraordinary novel... written by Cuba's leading poet... There is scarcely a line in the entire narrative that could be mistaken for anyone else's writing... Lezama's language is reckless, voluptuous, sly and unrelentingly sexual... A masterpiece of the modern Spanish Baroque... Lezama has the power not only to create absorbing and memorable images; he has also placed these images in into a vast network of philosophical and mythical significance... For me, the proof of the greatness of Paradiso is that for the last two weeks I've been walking around New York seeing things through Lezama's eyes." -- Edmund White, New York Times

About the Author

Jos Lezama Lima (December 19, 1910 in Havana, Cuba - August 8, 1976 in Havana, Cuba) was a Cuban writer and poet who is considered one of the most influential figures in Latin American literature.

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1 of 4 people found the following review helpful By R. J. Popel on 8 July 2009
Format: Paperback
Reading Lezama Lima's Paradiso is a rare treat, a truly enriching experience. Rabassa's translation is a work of art in its own right. I recommend the book to any lover of literature.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 9 reviews
44 of 45 people found the following review helpful
Dense, Demanding, Gorgeous 8 Aug. 2000
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I was thrown a bit by the first, say, hundred or so pages of this monumental novel. What was going on with the almost unbearably baroque prose style? The author's very sentences, cluttered and clogged with obscure adjectives, parentheical asides, dangling clauses, incomprehensible imagery, seemed to be undermining the flow of his (admittedly digressive, non-linear) plot. I felt like no one was getting anywhere, which, after persevering for a few hundred more pages, I realized was the point. It would be all but impossible to synopsize this novel's central action--if you can even call it action, for, as in Proust and the Great Russian novels (which served as obvious models, it seems safe to say)--there's a lot more conversing than carrying on. There are great, chapters-long debates on homosexuality, philosophy, and politics. Evidently a voracious and learned reader, Lezama Lima seems to have tried to cram all of his knowledge into this, his one and only novel, which, again, is appropriate considering that the book itself seems to be about the totality of human existence (I'm still riddling this one out.) Once I became used to the style and to the rather lenghty debates, I realized that what I was immersed in was a masterpiece, a book as confusing, messy, overwhelming and beautiful as life itself. I can't say that every reader will warm to Paradiso--it is hard going from start to glorious finish--but I do believe that the book deserves a crtical reevaluation. Let's put it alongside not only Gabriel Garcia Maquez and Carlos Fuentes, but also Joyce, Flaubert, Tolstoy and Proust and see where it stands. I have the feeling it might be one of the more important books of the last century.
48 of 54 people found the following review helpful
Simply Amazing 24 Aug. 2001
By Tere - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I would argue that Paradiso is the best novel of the 20th century. I don't believe this because of the plot; as a matter of fact, I don't really think there is much of a plot here. I say it because of factors that have to do with the author, the time in which he wrote this, and how those elements combined to make this incredible piece of literature.

A little bit of history: by the time Lezama Lima wrote this novel, he was already a well-known writer in Cuba. He and some friends had started a literary magazine, and actually, he was best known for his poetry. When Castro's revolution came to be in 1959, it marked the end of Cuba's literary life. Writers like Lezama Lima could keep writing so long as they wrote nothing controversial, nothing too "out there," nothing that could even hint a thought of anything that could be deemed "counter-revolutionary." And soon after Lezama Lima wrote Paradiso.

Now a little bit about the novel. Consider it, really, a long, endless conversation with many, many asides. It is complex if only because there are so many run-on sentences, so many thoughts and descriptions and details, that it's easy to lose track and just find yourself thinking, period. And I think that's what he was going for. The book covers just about everything: politics, ethics, philosophy, homosexuality, love, religion, etc. I thought when I read it that basically Lezama Lima just wanted to express his thoughts and opinions on everything (I later learned I was pretty correct about that, but more on that in a minute). What this brilliant man had to say is well-worth reading, even today.

But now, let's go back to the time and place when this was written. A few years after Castro came into power, and after he had declared his Communist intentions. With the publication of this novel, Lezama Lima's fate was sealed. As a homosexual man living in a country with a severely homophobic dictator, life had already been getting more and more difficult for him. But when Paradiso came out, he was officially declared "non-person" by the regime. For those unfamiliar with the concept, I will explain that being declared "non-person" essentially means just that: you cease to exist in the eyes of the government. You are erased from the history books, from the record books, you lose your job, people who visit you or have anything to do with you risk losing their government freebies and suffering reprisals. Lezama Lima was no longer a national literary treasure, and the man who up until that moment was considered one of the most respected writers in Latin America, was reduced to nothing.

I had the honor of meeting his younger sister a short while ago. She was sharing the contents of private letters between her and her brother from the years after the publication of Paradiso to those before his death. They revealed so much about Lezama Lima as a person, how he saw life, how he regarded his family (all of whom were in exile and whom he missed terribly). They reveal his gentleness, the tenderness he felt about nature, his family, his memories. And they also reveal the hell that his life had become: the loneliness, the constant vigilance, the pain he felt over what had become of his country.

Being privy to such an experience really only affirmed my thoughts about this novel. He must have known what lay in store for him, and yet it didn't stop him. He still wrote it. When the government demanded that he denounce his own book, the one he considered his masterpiece, his message to the world, in essence, he refused. It simply fills me with awe. For that alone the book is worth reading.
16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
More than nature 21 Jun. 2003
By C. Mejía - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Jose Lezama Lima achieved one of the most complex and mesmerizing novels of the XXth century in Latin America. Paradiso is a Bildungsroman (a novel about an individual's growing process) as it is a Kunstroman (novel about the artist). The reader will find many references to Lezama's life, but his work goes beyond a self portrait. Jose Cemi is a little cuban boy who grows up having breathing problems, and grasping the lifes of those who were before him.
His individuality mixes with the other's and the result is a complex narrator, an overwhelming amount of literary, cultural and mythological references, a refined use of the metaphor and a hightened sense of reality. Cemi's world is more than nature... it is supernatural. Cemi attends to the world of death, as he remembers the lifes of his ancestors, as they are told to him by his mother Rialta, and grandmother Augusta. The first half of Paradiso is all about the family... then uncle Alberto's death marks a point of change in the novel. From that moment on, it focuses in Cemi's friendship with two other students: Fronesis and Focion. The three of them constitute a triangle in which homosexuality, love, erotism, unity, mythology and androginy are the main topics. As well as incest.
When this simbolic triangle breaks, Cemi is ready for the epiphany: he meets Oppiano Licario: a friend of his father who promised him, as he was dying, to look after his son (Cemi). Licario also witnessed Alberto's sexual iniciation. He is a poet, and he is the one who can bring Jose Cemi out of the time of desperation into a rythm of reflection and artistic contemplation.
There is so much more to this novel... You can only know what it is all about by reading it. I can here only give you a few pieces. As Lezama believed: only what is hard is really rewarding, and this is particularly true for young people.
15 of 19 people found the following review helpful
Overwhelming 3 April 2000
By Abdias - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Apart from Nabokov, there is no other writer whose prose offers so much sensuous and intellectual pleasure. The range of Lezama Lima's metaphors and similes is boundless. There were times when I wondered what he exactly meant by this or that passage, but the sheer pleasure kept me going. Highly recommended to the chalcenteric reader!
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Greatness! 17 May 2007
By F. - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Lezama is not for everyone... to feel Paradiso there is a need to understand all his previous work: essays, poetry, short stories, critical and cultural studies. For those who have seriously study World Literature, there is no doubt that Lezama is one of the most important, sensible and imaginative writers of the XX century. You might not like him (and that is ok!) but to doubt his artistic greatness is nonsense. Once you enter the poetic system of Lezama the rewards are endless!
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