Este es el texto que leí en la mesa redonda Two Worlds durante el Festival del PEN acompañado por Salman Rudshie, Eduardo Lago, Adam Gopnik y Anne Ladsman.
American books I read as a child in Castro’s Cuba
In the summer of 2007 I was invited to a dinner that the Paris Review organized in the city of New York in honor of Norman Mailer. The novelist had recently published what would be his last novel, The Castle in the Forest, and would hold a conversation with E. L. Doctorow. I went with the grand illusion of listening to these two greats of North American letters that would speak about their most recent books and their friendship of years. Nevertheless, what I did not yet know was that thanks to the generosity of a friend I shared the table with Norman Mailer himself. So when I saw him enter the room and come up to our table with his very recognizable demeanor, that of a man once strapping and square, but who was now supporting himself with two canes, I could not help but become emotional. I stood up to greet him and after responding to me with a rapid gesture of his head, he asked me to take his two canes (beautifully adorned with silver handles) from him and arrange them. …He looked around: “there, by the window.” Something, which I didfull of happiness. During the dinner that followed his electrifying dialogue with Doctorow, I had the opportunity to speak with him.. I spoke to him – what else do you say in these cases? — about my admiration for his books that I began to read when very young, many years ago. At the center of the table were some copies of his novels, courtesy of the publishers, and I asked him to autograph a copy of The Naked and the Dead, which he kindly did. While he signed it, I mentioned to him how much reading this book in particular as a young person in Cuba had impacted me. He grumbled something, calculated in which year it ought to have been: “Yes, he admits, it’s a powerful book for teens” and he autographed it for me plainly: “For José, from Norman Mailer”.
That was all. About that dinner, nothing else was particularly memorable. I returned with that copy which I placed next to the most precious books in my living room. Days later, I had some people over for dinner and I showed my friend the autographed copy. He asked me a question that left me a bit perplexed. “But how,” he reacted surprised. “You read Norman Mailer in Cuba?” And added, “Iwould guess that North American writers were prohibited on the island.”
His commentary took me by surprise, and I couldn’t understand the reason for it till I figured out what he meant (…)