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Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Orígenes: a unifying aesthetic and religious visions

The prestigious literary and arts review Orígenes was founded by José Lezama Lima and José Rodríguez Feo in 1944.

"More than forty issues of the journal were published by the time of its demise in 1956. Orígenes was one of the most prestigious journal of its day in Latin America, and certainly the most important in the Hispanic Caribbean; in the words of Frank McQuade, "it provided a focal point for the most promising poets and critics in Cuba in the 1940s and 1950s." The journal published poetry, short stories, and critical essays on literature, art, music, and philosophy. Orígenes also featured artwork by internationally recognized Cuban artists such as Mariano Rodríguez, Wilfredo Lam, and René Portocarrero. Among the foreign writers who contributed to the magazine were several would-be Nobel Laureates including Juan Ramón Jiménez, Albert Camus, and Vicente Aleixandre. In addition, excellent translations of works by authors such as Wallace Stevens, Anäis Nin, and T.S. Eliot were done by the journal's co-founder José Rodríguez Feo, and vastly increased the magazine's international importance."

Most of the members of the group – with the notable exception of Virgilio Píñera – were Catholic and were connected by a unifying aesthetic and religious visions.

"The Orígenes group of poets and artists ... favored the poetry of Mallarmé instead of Péguy, and was contemptuous of the nation’s social and political struggles ... The art critic and diplomat Guy Pérez Cisneros (1915–1953) was an exception; influenced by Jacques Maritain, he played a significant role in the authorship of the Charter of Human Rights at the United Nations in 1946, and was engaged in conversations for the creation of a Christian Democrat Party at the time of his death. Other exceptions included the poets Israel Rodríguez (1925–2008) and Jorge Valls (1933–2015), who were active in the struggle against Batista, embraced the revolution during its first two years, and eventually found themselves in exile or prison ... Catholic intellectuals like Cintio Vitier (1921–2001) and other members of the Orígenes group ... shifted from their apolitical positions of the 1950s to liberation theology “conversions” that embraced the revolution as “the gospel on earth.”"

"The Orígenes group was comprised of the following artists and intellectuals:
Roberto Méndez Martínez writes that Fr Angel Gaztelu "was not a run-of-the-mill priest: his extensive culture distanced him from all fundamentalist attitudes and though he is remembered above all for his support of the arts and for his writing, in each one of the parish churches where he served he left a pleasant memory among the humblest people."

In the old San Carlos y San Ambrosio Seminary he met with an exceptional young man, José Lezama Lima. He "wrote his first notable essay, exegesis further more of the first poetic emergence of Lezama: “Muerte de Narciso, rauda cetrería de metáforas,” while the ineffable Juan Ramón collected 11 of his texts for his peculiar anthology La poesía cubana en 1936."

"Gaztelu was a pioneer in modern art applied to liturgy. When the temple in Bauta was being rebuilt, he asked sculptor Alfredo Lozano to design the presbytery. Four large paintings on wood were built into the walls on both sides of the nave, two of them were by Portocarrero: “Crucifixión” and “Entierro de Cristo,” while the rest, “El Descendimiento” and “La Resurrección” were by Mariano, who also left two stained-glass windows: one dedicated to Our Lady of Fatima and another to Saint Joseph. Today, in the chapel of Nuestra Señora de la Caridad de Playa Baracoa, unfortunately in a bad state, a mural by Portocarrero and an imposing crucifix by Lozano, still remind us of the splendour of that humble temple whose plans were conceived by architect Eugenio Batista.

He was appointed parish priest of Havana’s Espíritu Santo church on March 25, 1957 and the following year the priest undertook the restoration works of the temple: he had the plastering eliminated to leave the building in its original stone facade, thanks to which the presbytery’s dome appeared in all its beauty. The former baptism fountain, where illustrious patrician figures of Cuban culture were baptised, like poet Manuel de Zequeira, statesman Francisco de Arango y Parreño and pedagogue José de la Luz, was restored with the collaboration of Lozano, who created for this site a bronze bas-relief, “El bautismo de Cristo,” before undertaking in 1961, at one side of the presbytery, the building of the imposing tomb that would contain the remains of Bishop Gerónimo Valdés.

The indefatigable priest had time to collaborate in the magazines Espuela de Plata, Nadie Parecía – the only Cuban magazine at the time in sponsoring the new aesthetics with an explicit Catholic orientation, which defined itself as “Cuaderno de lo bello con Dios” – and Orígenes. Also a friend of many of the most notable visual artists of his time, he had one of the most important Cuban art collections of his time."

"Lezama was right when he wrote in the “Sucesiva 33” of Tratados en La Habana:

Those who heard him speak of creation and poetry, of verse and crafts, of names and justness, of friends and dignitaries, not only listened to him but also saw a tradition that went forward and demanded, a very decisive form of essence and presence. Of Christian, strong, irreplaceable essence. Of a classic presence in the serene Sunday of all the possibilities of man. (2014)"

Fina García Marruz is a poet, essayist and literary critic whose poetry pursued "the eternal in the fleeting temporal things." "Her poetry has received high honors in the Spanish-speaking world, including Cuba’s National Literature Prize, Chile’s Pablo Neruda Prize, and Spain’s Reina Sofía Prize for Spanish American poetry, among many others." She stands out in the rich heritage of Cuban literature for the linguistic vitality of her verses, her vivid images, her evocative use of language and for embodying, in her own way, the life history, customs, contradictions and all the glorious colour of the island. 


Jose Ardévol - Sonata.

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