words by Marilyn Bobes
As a poetic, philosophical compilation and divided between the narrative and poetic prose could be defined the book Lebensraum by artist and writer Jesus Lara Sotelo, who always surprises with the profession and authenticity of a speech without cracks, where the lyrical subject reviews his intimacy as well as the circumstances that surrounds him.
This is perhaps the most mature and the most peaceful book by an author that always provokes us with his unconformities and his disturbing provocations. And I say perhaps because from all the books I have read so far written by Lara, each of them in their own way, seem almost perfect with very well defined goals. He changes the lyrical subject but not the essences of an original and deep thought that does not settle with the personal experiences but it looks for its place in post-modernity.
Because, indeed Lebensraum—which means vital space—is a rebellion against the fragmentation of a world imposed from the outside and the poet wants to total with the imbrication of all the knowledge he has and which escapes to that disciplinary logic imposed by modernity since the Renaissance.
However, there is at the same time an empowerment of the stylistic resources from postmodernity that makes us jump from the personal aspect to the surroundings, from the philosophical to daily, from the absolute to what’s relative, and which paradoxically, surprises with an anti- conformist and even emancipating result.
The book starts and ends with two long texts: Músculos y azar, and Monologo bipolar where the narration moves forward in great steps towards what is merely poetic, through the special and temporary games where the emissary shows a great sensitivity about the world despite his tender denostations.
As it happens in almost everything that’s written by Lara, the poetic prose, intermittent by the constant and rhythmic score, is the right resource for this inter-generic discourse, where we traditionally accept as poetry what is expands and combines with expressions that sometimes are colloquial and some other from an elaborated metaphoric roots.
In general, reflection can be calm but, all of a sudden, a devastating question places the receiver in the position of an active reader that must solve by himself the questions the author proposes in order to get us from the comfortable positions of rational men that probably inhabit, without knowing, in an irrational universe.
“In the worldly shrink everything is narrow as in a throat”, he says in Monologo bipolar, and takes us into the assimilation of a past that determines our present where “the exits are open, but we know there are snipers on the roofs”.
Critic and writer Francisco Lopez Sacha was right when he says that Lebensraum is not a book but a summa. In it, there is all the possible imaginary that leads us to unfrequented paths in present Cuban poetry.
As said poet Omar Perez—translator of the beautiful bilingual edition presented by Coleccion Sur—in this book there are ideas and non-seductive accumulations of words that say nothing. Jesus Lara Sotelo aspires to communication.
But be aware, because it is not a simple communication that identifies the reader with the text thanks to a repetition more or less dissimulated of formulas and sensationalism.
Lebensraum’s complexity resides in its novel way of showing us an individuality that represents us all even though we might feel “shocked” by the revelation of a reality that we probably don’t want, and which however, is ours, denied or sublimated by interpositions and rationalization that Lara falls with allegories, metaphors, questions and aphorisms, uniting it all in a coherent and lucid language, full of wisdom and intelligence, anti-conformism and, deep down, infinite solidarity with the human species.
The affection that can emit these texts is an acid affection and that’s why it is difficult to recognize it. But this poet has been able to reconcile us with our species when he undresses the tragic manipulations contemporary men are object from.
When speaking in first person, he is really talking about “US all” placed in limit situations that seemed to be daily. In daily life, the deceit is hidden by the ignorance or the multiplicity of tricks and lies we are exposed to in this so called digital era.
Lara Sotelo is a poet of undeniable universality. Even though he declares to be “Afrodescendant and Caribbean” he does not make motives that move him away from this intimate globalization where we are all immersed in.
He knows “the soul cannot be bet on any faith” which means that in his verses is lost the faith in that “human betterment” Jose Marti told us about and where this poet leads us through the descarnavalization and liberation of the masquerade.
If Lara Sotelo had written only this book, he would have been an inevitable author for the Cuban literary panorama and perhaps, for the one extended beyond our borders.
With no tricks or formal juggling, with no adhesion to schools or fashion, he is presented to us with the authenticity that distinguishes good poets.
The perfect conjunction between form and content sustains the good intentions that not always have led us to Poetry, with capital letter. The one that is only reached by illuminated people even though, at first, we feel attacked by a type of honesty that also had some other cursed like Baudelaire or Rimbaud.
Here it is then an essential book. From this moment Lebensraum is part of that vital space in which is delimited the best parts of a poet who is on a par with what he lives in our world and with the conscience of the evils that haunt us and make us imperfect beings.
Let’s then celebrate the discovery of a poet who not wanting to be new invites us to novelty. A postmodernist one who does not accept himself as such. A man who has lived enough as to warn us of the possible lie we live in and perhaps we will continue to live in if we are not capable, as he was, to untangle the thread imposed by a metaphoric and powerful Minotaur to whom Lebensraum is, without a doubt, a sui generis and moving Ariadne’s thread.