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Since the first time he heard from Esteban Montejo the story of how he slipped away in the scrubland to begin his life as a runaway slave, Miguel Barnet knew he was going to write that life story as a novel.

The poet didn’t imagine that life and those of others would fill hundreds of pages that would be enjoyed, applauded and studied here and there in various languages, which have transcended thanks to the anchor of sincerity and the inspiration only real fables can provide.

On this occasion, however, I’m not going to talk about Barnet’s work, of his well known literary merits or his indisputable hierarchy in contemporary literary creation.

I’d rather imagine the writer as a character in one of his novels and not precisely of the experiences he hinted at in Oficio de ángel, the only one of his narrations in which autobiography is sensed.

This Miguel bursts in the city of Santa Clara, where his father has been forced to take refuge in order not to fall from grace before the hired assassins of the Bureau of Repression of Communist Activities (BRAC). A man who didn’t know what communism was, but that after hiring a person the police has a file on for being one, becomes the target for repression. The story of his father would have a surprise in store for him. He would stay in that city in the center of the island in times of Revolution, loyal to the industrial mission Ernesto Che Guevara entrusted him with.

The writer’s first political experience? What about that day he discovered, in the routine of the office in which he worked since he was almost an adolescent, pieces and incriminating documents?

January 1959 came, and, with that dawn, an epiphany –walking down the streets of Havana’s Vedado neighborhood wearing a cassock that hid a 26 of July armband.

A jump in time and the novel could be one on the incident of studying with Argeliers León and under the illuminating inspiration of Fernando Ortiz. The emotion of the first book of verses published, and, of course, his encounter with Esteban Montejo.

Another chapter could tour the gentle breeze of the Havana night in which, moved by Che Guevara’s farewell, he wrote a minuscule and great poem on the paper of a pack of cigarettes.

At a given moment of the plot, other characters could appear, and serious existential doubts would be expressed. I can see him on the balcony of Mercedes García, on top of Club 21, weaving the memories of Rita Montaner as a measure to limit ostracism, or traveling to Camajuaní so that Roberto Prieto could teach him the mysteries of the street parties of the Sapos and Chivos bands, or waiting for the call from Antonioni or Pasolini –I don’t know remember very well- who wanted to adapt Canción de Rachel for the big screen.

And amid all this, trusting the Revolution and Fidel, like a royal palm tree in the Cuban landscape.

The following chapters necessarily refer us to the whirl of the individual with public vocation, because, as his work grew and confirmed itself, someone began to dictate to him, from deep within, the guidelines of active participation in society.

How can he find enough time and strength to direct a foundation that gathers culture’s living force? Or to struggle in support of his country in the discussions at UNESCO in Paris? Or to represent Trinidad and Guanabacoa in the National Assembly? Or now, so the Cuban Union of Writers and Artists (UNEAC) can be the coherent collective expression of the Cuban intellectual and artistic vanguard’s thinking and actions? Or to visit communities devastated by hurricanes? Or to shape the project of The Slave Route?

Two vignettes would season the story. In one of them, Miguel is next to Gerardo Alfonso and this writer at the Panamanian airport of Tocumen. We were talking about how Hugo Chávez knew the poem dedicated to Ernesto Che Guevara by heart, when a European traveling to the island told another at the top of his voice: "You’ll see what a good time you’ll have with the Cuban girls." Miguel interrupts the conversation and went wild in defense of the dignity of Cuban women. Gerardo and I had our fists ready, just in case.

In another one Miguel reveals a personal frustration. He confesses he would have liked to be an opera singer and, to satisfy that wish a little, he sings Una rosa de Francia.

The end remains open. At 70 many new chapters will continue to be written in the novel of Miguel Barnet, a writer that drives loneliness away with clean metaphors and fills each of his acts with life.

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