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Yocandra in the Paradise of Nada Paperback – September 15, 1999

4.0 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

This highly erotic, seemingly autobiographical novel by Cuban writer Valdes describes narrator Yocandra's series of relationships with allegorical characters?fraudulent writer Traitor, filmmaker Nihilist, aesthete Lynx, and the best friend Gusana ("worm"), a pejorative term for nonpatriots. As a wry, if not outright humorous, indictment of Castro's Cuba (the Nada, or "nothing," of the title), this portrayal of the bleak reality of quotidian life in his regime is offset by occasional intertextual references (Lezama Lima comes especially to mind). The fluid translation introduces English-speaking audiences to the first fruits of a highly imaginative writer.?Lawrence Olszewski, OCLC Lib., Dublin, Ohio
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

After being cast out of purgatory onto a mystical island (aka Cuba) "that in waiting to build a paradise has created a hell," a woman asks, "Why swim? Why drown?" thus foretelling Yocandra's highly ambivalent life in this interesting first novel by Cuban Valdes. From Yocandra's symbolic revolutionary origins to her life as the starving, abused wife of a diplomat turned psychotic (the "Traitor"), and finally to her life as a literary editor, we witness the demoralizing effects of a corrupt, repressive political regime on Yocandra, her parents, and her two closest friends, now in exile. But for Yocandra, ambivalence about Cuba prevails, most notably in her allegorically double sex life: she alternates nights with the "Nihilist" (whom she really loves and with whom she experiences prolonged, carefully described sexual ecstasies) and the "Traitor" (her ex-husband, whom she wishes to humiliate). Amidst such stark designations, Yocandra's satirical side also emerges, as does her struggle (as the novel closes with its opening line, and she wonders if she writes the words or vice versa) to emerge as a writer. Jim O'Laughlin --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Arcade Publishing (September 15, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1559704764
  • ISBN-13: 978-1559704762
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.5 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.5 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,336,555 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Robert E. Olsen on March 17, 2002
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Zoe Valdes was born in Cuba in 1959 and fled to France in 1995. Overnight, she has vaulted to the first rank of contemporary Latin American novelists. "Yocandra in the Paradise of Nada" (Arcade Publishing: 1997) was her first novel published in English. "I Gave You All I Had" (Arcade Publishing: 1999), which existed in manuscript as early as 1995, and "My Father's Foot" (Planeta: 2002) have recently added to her reputation.
Told in the first person, "Yocandra" is a brief, rich, wrenching, serio-comic, episodic, film-influenced, belle-lettristic piece of performance art, in which the narrator's voice is, happily, always present.
Thrust out of a magic-realist Purgatory in a cycle of petition and rejection, Yocandra is confined to Castro's Cuba. A person's name may be important, but apparently not in Cuba. Yocandra exchanges one name, the name of her country, for the name of a muse in a failed effort to buy love. All of the other major characters in the book lack proper names. Her two lovers bear nicknames -- the Traitor and the Nihilist -- which reflect their relationship to the Cuban state. Like characters in a Bergman film, they meet and play a game of chess together while Yocandra suffers a spiritual crisis. Her father, a Communist Party hack, destroys a treasure trove of homoerotic art because it offends his orthodox machismo views. Her girlfriend, the Worm, escapes to Spain, where her life with a belching fat man becomes as strained as that of a character in an Almodovar film. Yocandra's lost love, the Lynx, stumbles upon a nighttime sailing expedition to Miami, willingly joins in, and alone survives a storm when he lashes himself to stray timber and floats free.
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Format: Hardcover
Zoe Valdes has been able to articulate, in a literary fasion, what I have sought to do for the last five years since I spent a year a half in Cuba and left unable to express what I had seen, heard and experienced. She highlights the contradictions brilliantly, illustrates how the regime has suppressed individuality and personal initiative and has produced an island of crazy old fools, (like her mother) men who can only repeat the same paranoid line over and over, (like the great leader) hyper-sexualized youth, (what else is there to do? How else to relax?) prostitutes, prisoners, young people for whom the threat of sharks and drowning is better than staying on the island, the wretching pain of losing all your friends to exile, the Hernia (what a great metaphor!). There is so much in this little book -- I would like to re-read it, and recommend it to anyone who wants to know what life is like on the island in this decade. This book, reflecting life in Cuba, is very, very sad and somewhat hopeless yet it must be read.
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Format: Hardcover
Her mother, then nine months pregnant, trekked to Havana for the big rally on May 1, 1959 and when she went into labour in the middle of Fidel Castro¹s speech and had to be carried away, Che Guevara rushed to her side and draped a Cuban flag over her belly. Her proud father named her Patria ³the fatherland², but by the time Patria became an adult living in a country where food was something barely more than a dream, she chucked her patriotic name and officially changed it to Yocandra, a character in her fat, old boyfriend¹s novel. Yocandra in the Paradise of Nada is a novel of personal survival in post revolutionary Cuba. It¹s power comes from its snapshot images of Cuba ravished by hurricanes and famine--the latter being caused by political indecisiveness, disastrous economic planning and the US boycott. The novel takes no sides, politically speaking. Instead it exposes the restlessness of the disgruntled youth born after the revolution and the nostalgia of their idealistic parents. The author, Zoe Valdes, contrasts the troubled youth trapped in a nightmarish reality with the stoic, idealism of those who supported Castro and longed for the revolution. Caught in a time warp, they struggle to achieve a sense of dignity lost in dreams which never materialise in Castro¹s Cuba. Here survival boils down to the two most basic needs: food and sex. Yocandra definitely leaves an impact
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Format: Hardcover
as a cubanmerican, cuban by birth, american by choice, i was moved beyond words by ms. valdes narrative of the cuban tragedy. tragedy because even though i live in the land of freedom and opportunity, there is always present in my heart, the anguish and the uncertainty for the ones left behind in the island. be it by their choice or by the designs of their destiny. ms. v., captures this so very well. i also was able to enjoy very much her comparasion of her old lover, the writer who charmed and bought the youthful yocandra her schooling and all the other things the revolution could not give its people, but only the priviliged ones at the top could. it is always the same story. the old man could only write the same sentence over and over. like mr. castro, who can only repeat the same empty promises over and over again without any respect for his people who have been hearing them for the past 4 decades. I was deeply moved by yocandra's telephone conversation when her rafter friend after he arrives in miami and narrates to her his ordeal leaving everything behind in the paradise of nada and facing the caribean ocean with strangers while his only baggage was his hope for a better life. that to me sums up all the words that as a refugee i wished i could have said so many times, over and over. i would like to read this book in spanish but i don't think is available now. please bring more books of tis caliber. i am quite tired of reading about our despotic hispanic machos and about how little we have done about them until these past two decades. gracias.
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