Heretics, Heritage, Possession: Leonardo Padura’s <em>Herejes</em>

  • Vicky Unruh University of Kansas
Keywords Latin American Cultural Studies, Cuban Novel, Fiction of Leonardo Padura, Post-Soviet Cuban Literature
Keywords Latin American Cultural Studies, Cuban Novel, Fiction of Leonardo Padura, Post-Soviet Cuban Literature


Seasoned readers of Leonardo Padura’s fiction have witnessed an increasing complexity in the writer’s penchant for the temporal or geographical palimpsest, the juxtapositions of historical moments and locations that we find, for example, in La novela de mi vida (2002), La neblina del ayer (2005), and El hombre que amaba a los perros (2009). Herejes (2013) complicates the structural palimpsest in its four parts that overlay scenes of an extended family’s story from Amsterdam, Krakow, Havana, and Miami and from the seventeenth century, the mid-twentieth century, and the new millennium. But Herejes also points to an emergent shift in structures of feeling in the substantial segment of Padura’s fictional for which the ex-detective Mario Conde serves as a protagonist. Herejes connects its time zones not through the nostalgic disenchantment with lost revolutionary ideals long anchored in Conde’s worldview, but rather through transformative acts and intimations of the future, a search for change-seeking trajectories linking generations. This more nuanced conception of the dynamic between past and present in Herejes suggests, in turn, a more complex view of cultural change through generations or even of culture itself. Although Herejes could easily be read as a family saga, the novel’s generational links through cultural reinvention come into view less with a genealogy chart than in the three intersecting motifs that constitute the work’s interpretive coordinates and its conceptual palimpsest of heretics, heritage, and possession that, as interwoven by Herejes, gesture toward the future.

Author Biography

Vicky Unruh, University of Kansas
Vicky Unruh is Professor Emerita of Latin American Literary and Cultural Studies at the University of Kansas. Her scholarship focuses on 20th and 21st Century Latin American literary and intellectual culture as manifested primarily in narrative, theatre, film, and artistic movements. She is the author of Latin American Vanguards: The Art of Contentious Encounters; Performing Women and Modern Literary Culture in Latin America; and numerous articles in journal and books. She is the co-editor of Telling Ruins in Latin America and the coordinator a special issue of PMLA on Work (October 2012). She is currently completing a book on post-Soviet Cuba. Unruh has served on the editorial boards of PMLA, Revista Iberoamericana, and Latin American Research Review, and she currently serves on the Executive Council of the MLA.
Dossier: Post-Detection Padura