Pedro Juan Gutiérrez
|Pedro Juan Gutiérrez|
|Born||27 January 1950
|Literary movement||Dirty realism|
|Notable works||Trilogia sucia de La Habana, Lulú le dégagé|
He grew up in Pinar del Río and began to work selling ice cream and newspapers when he was eleven years old. He was a soldier, swimming and kayak instructor, agricultural worker, technician in construction, technical designer, radio speaker, and journalist for 26 years. He is a painter and sculptor and an author of several poetry books.
He came to central Havana when he was 37 and was astonished by the level of violence but also by the energy of the people who lived there.
He is the author of Dirty Havana Trilogy, King of Havana, Tropical Animal (winner of Spain's Alfonso Garcia Ramos Prize in 2000), The Insatiable Spiderman, Dog Meat (winner of Italy's Narrativa Sur del Mundo Prize), Snake's Nest (winner of the Prix des Amériques Insulaires et de la Guyane in 2008), Our GG in Havana, and the short stories of Melancholy of Lions. Dirty Havana Trilogy, Tropical Animal and The Insatiable Spiderman have been translated to English. Since 1994, he has written ten prose books and five books of poetry. In 2007, he published Corazón Mestizo, a Cuban travel book.
Called a master of "Cuban dirty realism," like Zoé Valdés and Fernando Velázquez Medina, he tells the stories of the Cuban underclass in a direct, visceral style. His books describe contemporary Cuba from his semiautobiographical perspective as a disillusioned journalist.
His books are typically gritty, tragicomic accounts of himself and his countrymen hustling for money, searching for pleasure and happiness, and struggling in desperate situations. He makes heavy use of irony. His stories illustrate the difficulty of achieving self-sufficiency and contentment in a dysfunctional and poverty-stricken society with a paternalistic government.
His narrative voice is skeptical, intellectual, humorous, crass, sardonic, and bluntly frank. His literary persona is chiefly concerned with escaping poverty. However, efforts are rarely successful, and much of his time is spent escaping misery through sex and his preferred vices of rum, cigars and marijuana.
Dirty Havana Trilogy (Trilogía sucia de La Habana) (1998) is his best known work. It is set during the economic depression in Cuba in the early to mid-1990s. Its first two parts, "Anclado en la tierra de nadie" ("Anchored in No-man's Land") and "Nada que hacer" ("Nothing to Do"), follow the picaresque adventures of a protagonist, who, like the author, is a one-time journalist called Pedro Juan. He struggles with loneliness, claustrophobia and alcoholism. The third part, "Sabor a mí" ("Essence of Me"), is a collection of short stories in which Pedro Juan appears only intermittently.
Despite his grim depiction of Cuban life, his writing stresses his overriding love for Cuban culture. He frequently praises Cuban music, resourcefulness, and joie de vivre. He writes scornfully of people who avoid risk and self-expression in exchange for smothering safety and boredom-inducing banality. He wrote these works:
- Dirty Havana Trilogy
- The King of Havana
- Tropical Animal
- The Insatiable Spiderman
- Dog Meat
- The Snake's Nest
- Our GG in Havana
- Pobre Diablo and Other Stories
- Melancholy of Lions