Cuban literature in exile has lost of one of its leading figures with the death of poet, essayist and art critic Armando Álvarez Bravo in Miami on Monday.
An expert on renowned author Lezama Lima and friend of writer Gastón Baquero, Álvarez Bravo, who was born in Havana in 1938, was known for the polished prose he penned in his more than 40 books.
Although he stood out as an essayist, poetry was his true passion and he often said that his prose was simply an accessory to his poetry.
Considered to be part of Cuba’s so-called “Generation of the 50s,” he published many books of poetry during a lengthy career that continued when he went into exile in the 1960s after joining the long list of intellectuals censured by the Fidel Castro regime — in his case so brazenly that his name was included in and then erased from a dictionary of Cuban authors published on the island.
Over more than two decades, he published a long list of columns in the pages of el Nuevo Herald about writers, artists and events.
“Armando was a point of reference for his generation, both as an elegant poet as well as a critic of literature and the plastic arts. A teacher, always ready to counsel the younger ones,” said writer and music critic Daniel Fernández.
Álvarez Bravo was an early member of the Cuban Academy of Language, as well as corresponding member of the Royal Spanish Academy and the North American Academy for the Spanish Language and a life member of the American Translators Association. He also was one of the founders of the PEN Club’s chapter for Cuban writers in exile.
His colleagues in exile, who joined him in book presentations and other intellectual gatherings, remembered him with fondness and respect.
“He was full of creative ideas and energy until the end,” said Luis de la Paz.
“One of the great ones has left us. Effective today, the exile community will be poorer, more orphaned, more desolate. Others will speak of the great poet, of his career, of his lasting work. I prefer to remember my colleague, my friend, and to stand in front of the shelves that hold his books, pick up any one of them and read it,” said José Abreu Felippe.
Juan Manuel Salvat, whose Universal publishing house and bookstore published several of Álvarez Bravo’s works, said he was one of the most creative figures in Cuban literature, as well as a friend.
“It’s a loss that hurts because of the friendship, but even more because of the vacuum he leaves behind,” Salvat said. “We know he’s receiving the loving embrace of God, but we are left more alone, more sad, no longer able to share a good drink while we talk about our Cuban obsessions.”
Those who knew Álvarez Bravo said that he was as exceptional in his private life as in his professional circle. He was devoted to his family.
A Mass in his memory will be held at 1 p.m. Thursday at St. Thomas The Apostle Catholic Church, 7303 SW 64th St., in Miami.
In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to St. Jude’s Children Research Hospital.