memories of underdevelopment analysis
With Memories of Underdevelopment, it was his distinct achievement to model how to strike this balance. He is a regular contributor to the New York Review of Books and teaches at NYU. It examined events from a half decade before: momentous days and images that continued, in 1968, to shape the story of a revolution that had left its heady youth behind and was just beginning to deal with the contradictions of adulthood. In the early weeks of 1959, Che Guevara and the rebel army’s “cultural division” commissioned a pair of documentaries to capture the revolution’s immediate land-reform efforts. But arguably more striking was the revolution’s foremost filmmakers’ success, from the start, at parlaying their leaders’ respect for cinema into an opportunity to tell stories that didn’t shy from examining the tensions of Cuban life. Elena becomes a symbol of Sergio’s contempt for his island: “She makes me feel underdevelopment at every step.” They visit another high-cultural site whose import sails over her head—Ernest Hemingway’s old home outside Havana, which, then as now, has been preserved as a tourist trap, its bookcases lined with Cervantes and Arthur Miller and its walls hung with stags’ heads.
When they go to a bookstore, she looks at her nails; at the art museum, she studies her purse. But in continuing to parse them, we can be more grateful than ever to have this Cuban classic to turn to. The facade has been rendered dingy by exhaust from the old Buicks and Fords plying the avenue as taxis, and there’s little about it to suggest its identity from outside.
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