Lezama Lima, José (1910–1976)
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Lezama, born in Havana, Cuba, was one of the most important Latin American literary figures of the twentieth century. He was a poet, essayist, novelist, and cultural promoter of legendary stature, as well as the author of elaborate neobaroque poetry and prose; his works include the collections of verse Muerte de Narciso (The Death of Narcissus, 1937), Enemigo rumor (Enemy Whisper, 1941), La fijeza (Fixity, 1949), Dador (Giver, 1960), and the posthumous Fragmentos a su imán (Fragments in Search of His/Their Magnet, 1977); the collection of essays La expression americana (The American Expression, 1957), Tratados en La Habana (Treatises in Havana, 1958), and La cantidad hechizada (The Enchanted Portions, 1970); and two novels, Paradiso (1966) and the unfinished Oppiano Licario (1977). Director and cofounder of one of the most important Latin American journals of its time, Origenes (1944-1956), Lezama began to write with the decline of the literary avant-garde and the collapse of the Cuban revolutionary movement of the 1930s. His joyful, optimistic writing, in which fragments are recycled to create new possibilities both for literature and for social life (he makes no distinction between the two), may be seen as a response to the pessimism of the era. In his writings, the secondariness of Latin American culture is embraced, and terms such as “echo,” “incorporation,” and “receptiveness” are reclaimed as primary. A supporter of the Martí legacy of the Cuban revolution, Lezama was appointed, with the advent of the revolution, to several posts, including that of vice president of the National Union of Cuban Writers and Artists in 1962.