Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

VIVA CHE

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I've been called every name in the book. One of my favourites is Cadillac socialist, with "naive idealist" coming a close second.

Well, I've never owned or driven a Cadillac, having owned a VW bug for an indecent length of time and now a "new" one, the new bug designed with bud vases for old hippies, for ten years. The new one is black and I plan to drive it into the ground ie my grave. Now that is SO green.

Naive? I don't think so. Enthusiastic, yes. Optimistic, yes, but not naive.

Is it naive to regard Leonard Cohen and Che Guevara as heroes after all these years, to say YES!!!!!!!!to Obama and wear his T shirt for six months without taking it off, even to bathe? Or is it hopeful? There was a time when mentioning Cohen and Che in the same breath was an oxymoron. That was back when anything sacred was feudal.

I rounded out my grand tour of heroes Fiday night when we sat through five hours of Che parts one and two, Soderberg's neo-realist tribute to the fallen icon.

Bolivia was Che's lesson in naivete; and it cost him his life. I noticed the movie, starring Benicio Del Toro, was filmed in Mexico, and that led me to wonder if the Cuban governmant has nixed it, because, by the time we enter the Bolivian mountain forests we know he will never get out of the woods. Not that we didn't already.

It was painful watching the erosion of his hope for revolution in the country that politicised him when he observed the exploitation of Bolivian miners by the economic imperialists who have been plundering Latin America for a century, and are desperate to maintain the status quo.

I wonder what would have happened had Che stayed in Cuba, his adopted homeland, and raised his family and the expectations of a newly formed nation. Cuba's admirable medical system is a tribute to the doctor from the Argentine, but would he have have guided Cuba to a middle ground, diplomacy with its powerful northern neighbour, and served his cause better had he stayed?

Probably not in the cards, he was a evolutionary and revolutionaries are not always good at re-building. Caught in the dialectic of political action, Che became a victim of his own altruistic instincts.

And Cuba is Cuba, poised between then and now, a time of critical importance. Either Cuba will gain momentum in the vanguard of new green economies or it will succomb to its history as a whore of Spain, America and Russia. It is like watching the moving. Part 2 will tell the story.

Its writers are critical.There is, as always, a thriving literary culture in and out of Cuba, but is it serving the future? Some are for and some against the revolution and the deprivation visited on a people who have only known one form of slavery or another. We hear of human rights violations, but that comes from the home of rendition and waterboarding.

What we need is more dialogue, a more concrete connection that the tenuous reality of tourism.

Canadians have reached out a fiendly hand in spite of our neighbours. The Canada Cuba Literary Alliance is fragile and new, but strong friendships are being forged between neighbours, albeiit neighbours divided by a stubbornly antagonistic political mass whose critical thinking has been driven by Florida drug dealers and the adversarial agenda of the American right.

Even our government has been affected by the Axis of Evil mentality. Artist exhchange is not encouraged by the Harper government. The CBC has become more critical of late, reflecting their lack of arms length objectivity.

It is up to our artists to strengthen the bond and refresh the will of a sovereign people.

Check out the CCLA website. Viva Che. His humanism outlives him.

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

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Linda Rogers

Linda Rogers is the author of the novels Say My Name (Ekstasis Editions, 2000), Friday Water (Cormorant Books, 2003) and The Empress Letters (Cormorant Books, 2007). She has also published several collections of poetry, including Love in the Rainforest (Exile Editions, 1996), Heaven Cake (Sono Nis Press, 1997), The Saning (Sono Nis Press, 1999) and The Bursting Test (Guernica Editions, 2002).

Go to Linda Rogers’s Author Page