Cover of: Paradiso by José Lezama Lima
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Last edited by Jenner
October 25, 2021 | History
An edition of Paradiso (1966)


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Paradiso is a novel by Cuban writer José Lezama Lima, the only one completed and published during his lifetime. Written in an elaborately baroque style, the narrative follows the childhood and youth of José Cemí, and depicts many scenes which resonate with Lezama's own life as a young poet in Havana. Many of the characters reappear in Lezama's posthumous novel Oppiano Licario, which was published in Mexico in 1977.

The novel relates Cemí's struggles with a mysterious childhood illness, describes the death of his father, and explores his homosexuality and literary sensibilities. He lives in the world of pre-Castro Havana, and the Cuban Revolution only appears as a secondary plot. Some of the later chapters incorporate narrative experiments in which several alternating stories, set during widely divergent eras and having no immediately apparent connection with José Cemí, are interwoven and eventually merged. (In a letter to Julio Cortázar, Lezama explained that these chapters represent Cemí's dreams after the death of his father.) Because of the graphic homosexual scenes and the novel's ambivalence towards the political situation of the day, Paradiso encountered controversy and publication problems. Today it is widely read in the Spanish-speaking world but has not achieved the same fame in English-speaking countries despite a translation by Gregory Rabassa.

Despite having written one of the most accomplished novels in Cuba's history, Lezama said he never considered himself a novelist, but rather a poet who wrote a poem that became a novel. Paradiso can thus be considered a kind of long poem, just as well as a neo-baroque novel.

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Edition Availability
Cover of: Paradiso
2000, Dalkey Archive Press
in English - 1st Dalkey Archive ed.
Cover of: Paradiso
1996, ALLCA XX
in Spanish
Cover of: Paradiso.
1974, Farrar, Straus and Giroux
in English
Cover of: Paradiso
1974, Farrar, Straus and Giroux
in English

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Book Details

Published in

Nanterre, France

Edition Notes

Includes bibliographical references.

Colección Archivos -- 3


Library of Congress
PQ7389.L49 P3 1988

The Physical Object

xl, 790 p. :
Number of pages

ID Numbers

Open Library

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October 25, 2021 Edited by Jenner Merge works
April 16, 2010 Edited by bgimpertBot Added goodreads ID.
April 13, 2010 Edited by Open Library Bot Linked existing covers to the edition.
December 15, 2009 Edited by WorkBot link works
October 26, 2008 Created by ImportBot Imported from University of Toronto MARC record.