The Children Who Nobody LovedBy: Elizabeth López Corzo (Cuba)Translator: Alejandro González Herrera (Cuba)
Sometimes, bringing memories back can be extremely painful, particularly if
those memories are sad. Embarrassment, bitterness, resignation are feelings
that live inside us, at times due to our own acts, in other occasions they
are the sequels left in our history by somebody.
For Cubans, thinking of January 1st, of the 60s, of the Agrarian Reform, and even
of the trips to the Soviet Union, is usually pleasant; nostalgia for those
happy days immediately emerge. However, more recent periods that have marked
our lives forever have not been that privileged in our memories. I am
talking about the war in Angola and the obscure years of the Special Period, along with all the sadness entailed by those events.To that reality, apparently forgotten, avoided because of its cruelty and hidden for convenience, Angel Santiesteban dedicates his book “The children who nobody loved” which was awarded with Alejo Carpentier Prize to short story in 2001. This new award adds up to other ones won by this young writer who received a special mention in Radio France’s Juan Rulfo Contest in 1989. He also won UNEAC Prize in 1995 and was finalist in Casa de las Americas Contest in 1992.Without too many stylistic resources and using a transparent language, with a lineal structure and skipping open dialogues, the author take us to a marginal world where the instinct of conservation predominates in every inhabitant.“The children who nobody loved” tells six heartbreaking stories, that could be perfectly taken from the real world, even if some are unknown since they have nothing to do with us, such as two short stories on prison conditions: “The Hog” and “The Bitch.”In those short stories, there is not an explicit description of the jail, the street or the jungle. Nonetheless, the language is so solid that the vulgarity of characters, the filthy and the corruption of those who are supposed to enforce the law, are enough to make us feel, more than sad, full of despise for that miserable way of living, and pity for those who had lost their “good consciousness” and host only hard feelings. In prison, in the darkness of the city, in the solitude of sea, surrounded by strangers or trapped in the African jungle, the characters live (or survive) in nonconformity playing to be somebody else.
They endure the harshest blows of destiny but still they hope to abandon their precarious situation someday.Fear, sex, faith in saints and incomprehension are constant in every short story. An outstanding realism is displayed in this work where everybody lives in the world they hate the most: “I look at those around me and realize I have nothing to do with these people,” says the main character of “Wolves in the night.”There is a man who kills cattle in the small hours pushed by his wife and his economic situation, a man who does not want to leave his country and whose dream was become a painter. A balsero
who dreamt of being a writer. A travesty who suffers for having been born a man. A prostitute who wants to finish her studies at the university. And a soldier who does not want to take part at war. In all of them, those who are not happy or can not be happy, it is reflected the spirit of many Cubans during the last three decades. One feels an atmosphere of resignation and indifference, of a sad time in which one has missed many things. “Fortunately, nobody is doing guard duty in the blocks as before.”In this book, one sees the human being pushed to the worst conditions, degraded, solitary and miserable. The way in which Santiesteban resolves (or does not resolve) his characters’ conflicts and his sharpness to look at unpleasant topics is what makes this work remarkable.The limit situations in this short stories make the characters forget about the others since they have to survive above all. Though there are some hints of solidarity in “The Bitch” and “The ForgottenOnes”, those who show some compassion are punished. It refers to the myth of Sisifo who could not stay on the top of the mountain because he fell over and over again with his heavy load.That’s why “The children who nobody loved” is a story who nobody wants to recall.