The New York Times
February 22, 2005

Writer Guillermo Cabrera Infante Dies


LONDON (AP) -- Cuban-born novelist Guillermo Cabrera Infante, regarded as one of the most original voices in 20th-century Spanish literature and an outspoken critic of Fidel Castro, has died in London. He was 75.

Cabrera died in a hospital Monday from septicemia, said Carmen Pinilla, a spokeswoman for his literary agents, the Balcells agency in Barcelona, Spain. Septicemia is a type of blood infection.

The writer, a London resident since 1966, had suffered a series of illnesses in recent years including diabetes as well as heart and kidney problems, Pinilla said in a phone interview Tuesday. She added that Cabrera's wife, Miriam, was by his side when he died.

Cabrera had long been lauded for his experimental use of language in his novels, essays and cinema criticism, and he won the 1997 Miguel de Cervantes prize for literature, the most prestigious literary award in the Spanish-speaking world.

``Perhaps his greatest originality was to turn cinema criticism into a new literary genre,'' Peruvian writer Mario Vargas Llosa, who served on the jury that awarded the prize, said of Cabrera.

His most famous novel, ``Three Trapped Tigers,'' an animated account of nightlife in Havana cabarets before Castro came to power, was published in 1967.

``Its success surprised me. It is half-written in Cuban (slang) and so most readers won't understand'' he said in an interview with The Associated Press after winning the Cervantes prize.

Other titles include the author's personal favorite, ``Twentieth Century Job'' published in 1963, ``Holy Smoke,'' published in English in 1985, and the 1997 essay ``Cinema or Sardine.''

Other fictional works include ``A View of Dawn in the Tropics,'' 1965, and ``Infante's Inferno,'' 1979. He translated James Joyce's ``Dubliners'' into Spanish in 1972.

Cabrera also wrote screenplays, including the adaptation of Malcolm Lowry's ``Under the Volcano'' for the film directed by John Houston.

``His verbal talent was extraordinary, both spoken and written, although this is something that anyone who has read his book knows,'' best-selling Spanish novelist Javier Marias, a friend of Cabrera, wrote in Spain's leading daily, El Pais.

Cabrera was born in Gibara, Cuba in 1929, and his parents were founding members of the Cuban Communist Party. After the revolution in 1959, Cabrera became editor of the literary supplement to the new regime's mouthpiece, ``Revolucion.''

He fell out of favor after opposing the revolutionary government's decision to ban a documentary by his brother on Havana nightlife. Castro publicly rebuked him in a trial and he was forbidden to publish.

Cabrera was nevertheless appointed Cuba's cultural attache in Brussels in 1962. He returned to Cuba for his mother's funeral in 1965 but accepted he could not continue living there. He eventually settled in London, taking British citizenship. The themes of exile and alienation toward the Castro regime were present in much of his work.

In 1991, he published a collection of political writings under the title ``Mea Cuba'' that was harshly critical of Castro's government.

``I have not been back (to Cuba) since I left in 1965 and will not until Fidel Castro leaves power,'' he said in 1997.

Cabrera also is survived by daughters Ana and Carola from his first wife, who divorced him in 1961. He married Miriam Gomez later that year.

A private funeral was planned.

``The ashes of Guillermo Cabrera Infante will be stored to be sent to Cuba when that country is free,'' said a statement released by Cabrera's Spanish publishing house, Alfaguara.