An exhibition in Trinity College’s Wren Library which runs until 12 June 2018 celebrates the work of the Cuban artist Wifredo Lam, using items from the Wren’s extraordinary Kessler Collection of Artists’ Books. In this blog post, we look at the University Library’s own holdings of Lam books and related material.
Fata morgana / André Breton ; illustrated by Wifredo Lam
The exhibition focuses on Wifredo Lam’s many collaborations with a wide variety of international artists and writers such as Aimé Césaire, Gherasim Luca, and René Char. The UL’s earliest holding of his work reflects this aspect of his career: a 1969 English translation of André Breton’s poem Fata morgana illustrated by Lam (1990.9.1800). This collaboration dates from the Cuban artist’s time in France from 1938 to 1941, when he met and worked with many of the Surrealists and other leading European writers and artists of the period. However, the artistic exchange between Wifredo Lam and contemporary European art and literature had already begun years before, when he first went to study in Madrid in 1923. We hold a number of titles in French, Spanish and English dealing completely or in part with this side of Lam’s life and work:
- André Masson : de Marseille à l’exil américain (2016.9.657)
- Lam et les poètes (S950.b.200.559)
- Más allá de lo real maravilloso : el surrealismo y el Caribe (400:8.c.200.186)
- Diálogo de las artes en las vanguardias hispánicas (C213.c.6463)
- Wifredo Lam and the international avant-garde, 1923-1982 (405:6.b.200.8)
- The colour of my dreams : the Surrealist revolution in art (S950.b.201.911)
Reinaldo Arenas (1943-1990) was one of Cuba’s most important and controversial writers. His debut novel Celestino antes del alba celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. Arenas is best known outside the Spanish-speaking world for his posthumously published 1992 autobiography, Antes que anochezca / Before Night Falls (adapted into an award-winning film in 2000 by Julian Schnabel). This documented the horrific persecution he faced under Fidel Castro, both for his openly homosexual lifestyle and for his public antipathy towards the leader’s regime, and his eventual escape to the USA as part of the infamous Mariel Boatlift.
Reinaldo Arenas in France in June, 1988. (Photo by Louis MONIER/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)
On Friday November 25th, exactly 60 years since he set forth from Mexico on the yacht Granma, one of the most influential, divisive and long-standing public figures of the last century passed away. This year also marked 10 years since Fidel Castro began to step down from his position as president of Cuba, a country he had led for well over half a century. However, his influence and image still loomed large over his country – and world politics in general – in the intervening years and will continue to do so for years to come.
The University Library has always strongly collected material from and about Cuba, especially since the Revolution – in fact, the earliest book that we hold concerning Fidel Castro dates from 1959, the very year that Castro and his rebels finally ousted Fulgencio Batista from power: Fidel Castro: rebel–liberator or dictator? by Jules Dubois (672:45.c.95.2). Continue reading