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By José Lezama Lima

Translated by Gregory Rabassa

ISBN: 9781564782281

Publication Date: 12/3/2005

A classic of modern literature, Paradiso was first published in Cuba in 1966 and quickly hailed as a masterpiece by such eminent writers as Julio Cortázar and Mario Vargas Llosa. Written by Cuba's most important poet, it tells the story of José Cemí, who, in the wake of his father's premature death, comes of age in turn-of-the-century Cuba, "an island paradise where magic and philosophy twist the lives of the old Cuban bourgeoisie into extravagant wonderful shapes" (Washington Post). Weaving the exhilarations and defeats of love into extraordinary erotic verbal tapestries, Lezama Lima narrates Cemí's search for his dead father and for an understanding of love and the powers of the mind. 

Both an archetype and a microcosm of Cuban society, Paradiso is as perceptive and psychologically intricate as Proust's vision of France, and as vigorous and sometimes corroded as Faulkner's Yoknapatawpha County. 


"Paradiso has the 'leaps of imagination' which have come to associated with the best contemporary Spanish literature." Jack Friedman, Village Voice


"The wonder of Paradiso is the rediscovery of the world of words, not as a tool but as an art form in its own right. The rediscovery of an ancient and profound need, the solace of language. . . . Paradiso triumphs as a work of pure aestheticism, of absolute digression and linguistic tour de force." Peter Moscoso-Gongora, Nation<

"[An] extraordinary novel . . . written by Cuba's leading poet. . . . There is scarcely a line in the entire narrative that could be mistaken for anyone else's writing. . . . Lezama's language is reckless, voluptuous, sly and unrelentingly sexual. . . . A masterpiece of the modern Spanish Baroque." Edmund White, New York Times

Biographical Information

José Lezama Lima (1910-1976) was one of the most important Cuban writers of the twentieth century. He was appointed director of the Department of Literature and Publications of the National Cultural Council after the ascension of the Castro regime, but later fell out of favor for the frank discussion of homosexuality and apolitical content of his masterpiece, Paradiso. A poet and novelist, his work has had a lasting influence on Cuban and world literature. 

Gregory Rabassa is one of the most renowned translators of both Spanish and Portuguese literature. He has translated books by Gabriel García Márquez, Julio Cortázar, António Lobo Antunes, and Osman Lins, among many others.