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  • 11 / 24 / 2006

Styron Williams

William Styron seemed to be a good guy. The classical North American liberal intellectual.

That was my impression after a turbulent exchange after an encounter that he held with Cuban writers and artists in the Casa de las Américas, during his visit to the country in March of the year 2000.

The public dialogue had not gone with the right spontaneity; one of those present insisted on knowing what on earth were Styron and Arthur Miller doing in Cuba, whether they had brought a message, thinking, surely that the author of Sophie's Choice had lent his home on the Martha Vineyard island, so that the President at the time, William Clinton and Gabriel García Márquez could meet each other, and the latter could invite the former to meet Fidel Castro.

Miller found another pretext to nurture his bilious, cynic and prejudiced vision about Cuba in the harassment. Miller could not understand a single thing of what was going on around him, not even of the dignity of his casual encounter with two walking citizens, outside of the Santa Isabel hotel.

For the famous dramatist, Cuba was an enigma that could never fit into his mentality. He may have been bothered by some young people from the theatres who remembered him first and foremost as one of Marilyn Monroe's husbands, instead of by his brilliant theatrical achievements.

Styron was different. He came with Rose, his wife, a person with a wonderful sensitivity, who stimulated him to open his eyes wide open and to live his Cuban experience without any kind of prejudice.

Rose was precisely the person who indirectly favored that my encounter with Styron could flow through a track of mutual interest.

Because the first thing I told the novelist when I approached him, was that I had liked -and this was not sucking up to him or protocol- A la luz del viñedo (Under the light of the vineyard), a book by Rose that evokes the combination of nature and human landscape from the Vineyard microcosm.

"She has every talent in the world," commented Styron and from thee onwards, everything went well. For about twenty minutes we talked about the literary tradition in his country, about the editorial marketing which leads to the loosening of styles, about how little was contemporary Cuban literature known in the United States.

He asked me then point-blank: "Is it true that everybody here loves Castro, you the artists and intellectuals?" I told him arguments and convictions that are not worth reproducing. And then Styron crowned this part of the dialogue with the phrase: "There are things you have told me that I can not understand, but I admire in all of you a sense of identity and responsibility that is not very common these days."

And he then added literally, according to the notes of that day: "Cuba was for me a mystery which starts to get clear. It is time that my country's administrations stop your suffering for the mere fact that you have a different political system from us.

Today I ask myself more than ever, why do we have relations with China and not with Cuba. I also ask myself why don't they let Castro and all of you be with your ideas. My President is bothered by right religious fundamentalism, that terrible new fashion which is threatening us every day. Sometimes I think whether this stubbornness against Cuba and Castro is not another form of fundamentalism."

"And these things that you are telling me -I asked- may I go public with them?"

Styron smiled: "Sadly I am a public man. But if it is so that my opinions about this matter are heard, then I am lucky to be a public man."

Source: CubaNow

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