Zoé Valdés

Zoé Valdés
фото: Attys Luna Vega

About the author

Born in Havana, on 2nd May 1959, the same year when Cuban revolution triumphed, Zoé Valdés grew up with her mother. Among her ancestors is one grandfather of Chinese origin, the other of Spanish, one grandmother of Irish and the other of African descent. She started her first studies at the College of Pedagogy Enrique José Varona, but she did not graduate. After that she enrolled in the Faculty of Philology in Havana, where she completed two years of studies. She is the first generation of the young who were brought up in the spirit of the revolution’s victory. In the mid 1980s she left for France, Paris, where she studied at the Alliance française and worked at the Delegation of Cuba at UNESCO and the Office of Culture of the Cuban Embassy. She returned to Cuba in 1988 and took part in the artistic movement, believing that this could lead to changes. She worked as an editor for the magazine Cuban Film and as a screenwriter for the Cuban Film Institute of Art and Industry, after starting this project in Paris. In 1990, she left for the USA to shoot the film Parallel Lives, which was eventually filmed in Venezuela.    

In the early 1990s her problems with the regime became more serious. Her continuous and direct opposition to Castro’s regime, due to concurrent events in particular (Port Mariel, the crisis of the ferrymen, the exodus of Cuban emigrants to Miami), accelerated her definitive exile to Paris, together with her husband, filmmaker Ricardo Vega, and her daughter Atis Luna in 1995. She has been living and working in Paris ever since. She received Spanish citizenship in 1997. She is censored in her homeland, so her novels can be found only on the black market.

Zoé Valdés is a member of the French Order of Arts and Letters. She has been presented with the ‘Keys of Forida’ in 1991; she became a Doctor Honoris Causa at the University of Valenciennes, France, in 2005. She has received a number of literary awards: the first prize for poetry ‘Roque Dalton y Jaime Suárez’ for her book Respuestas para vivir (Responses to Life, 1982), the Carlos Ortiz Poetry Award for the book of poetry Todo para una sombra (All for a Shadow,1985). She was a finalist for the prestigious Vertical Smile and Women’s Narrative Award A New Word for the novel Sangre azul (Blue Blood, 1997); the first Coral prize for best screenplay for Vidas paralelas (Parallel Lives, 1990) at the 12th International Festival of New Latin American Film; the first prize for short novel Juan March Cencillo for the novel La hija del embajador (Ambassador’s Daughter, 1995); the finalist of the Planeta Award for the novel Te di la vida entera (I Have Given You My Whole Life, 1996); the Liberatur Prize for La nada cotidiana (Everyday Nothingness, 1997), the Fernando Lara Award for the novel Lobas de Mar (The Sea She-Wolfs, 2003); the City of Tore la Vieja Award for the novel La eternidad del instante (The Eternity of a Moment, 2004). He latest novel La mujer que llora (The Weeping Woman) was awarded the Azorin Novel Prize in March 2013.

Zoé Valdés contributes to various journals all over the world, regularly writes on social networks, participates in different debates, both intellectual and political, openly sharing with the public and her audience her personal and public attitudes and her association with the Cuban opposition from exile.  She publishes in Spanish and French newspapers: El Pais, El Mundo, El Semanal, Qué leer, Elle, Vogue, Le Monde, Libération, Le Nouvel Observateur, Beaux Arts, and Les Inrockuptibles. Her personal blog, which is very popular, has a following of several hundred thousand people, among whom there are many intellectuals of the world renown. She is very active and posts comments on the blogs of other writers (Vargas Llosa, Coelho) in her typical direct style, without beating around the bush.

Zoé Valdés participates in literary congresses, film festivals, always publically and loudly speaking her mind as a human rights activist. Her recent public contributions have been numerous and attracted attention all over Europe and the USA, most of them occurring in Miami, where the Cuban immigrant population is largest. Her positions are always stated openly and publically in her novels, as well as in her columns, conferences, on public networks and in her public appearances. 

She started writing at the age of 17, debuting in poetry, where she says she still feels at home. She soon went on to write novels, but her writing and talent show the same qualities in both fields. Despite her great success in prose writing, her poetry is very tender, full of sensuality and eroticism, with the eternal themes of desire and transiency of time. 

Zoé Valdés’ work is imbued with themes typical of women’s narrative, with many references to sexuality and music, above all. She defends women, understands them, speaks about their problems and emotions, misinterpretation by others, more or less close, about their difficult status, often despise they receive from many: family, husbands, lovers, but most of all, the society. In her work there is a lot of politics, Cuban reality, as well as ignorance, globalisation on a universal level, which she criticises without watching her tongue.  

Her literary opus is usually categorised by contemporary critics as the new genre – literature de urgencia (urgent literature, literature which does not hold back). Her works reflect wide knowledge of culture, history, literature. She often quotes well-known writers, both contemporary and classical. Her works are easy to read, with alternating first and third persons singular, short, sharp thoughts, but, it requires an intellectual reader, who is familiar with art in all its forms as well as technology, who is informed about the most current events in the world arena.  

The first published work, the book of poems Responses to Life, appeared in 1986, followed by: All for a Shadow (1986), which, due to the Taifa Award, gained her prominence in the Iberian Peninsula; The Smokers’ Car (1996), Poems about Havana (1997), Wires of a Lynx (1999) and Moon Earrings (1999) which were a significant part of her poetical work. Lyrical tone imbues her entire opus, together with the obsessions and passions of constant evocation and returning to her hometown.       

She published her first novel Blue Blood in 1993. A book of short prose. Many of her writings were published after she finally left Cuba. Two years later, the same year when she found her permanent residence in Paris in 1995, she published the novel Ambassador’s Daughter. This novel places a special emphasis on the female being, is direct in style and has a lot of eroticism. Soon afterwards, she published one of her best-known books, Everyday Nothingness (1995), where she speaks of the adventures of a Cuban girl, went through her formative period in the first years of the Cuban revolution. This is the novel that would bring her international acclaim and popularity, with translations in more than 20 languages, and followed by a kind of a sequel All the Everydayness (2010).    

Први роман Плава крв објавила је 1993. Књига поетске прозе. Многа дела Сое Валдес издата су након њеног дефинитивног одласка са Кубе. Две године касније, исте године када се и за стално настањује у Паризу, 1995. објављује роман Амбасадорова кћи. Ово дело ставља посебан акценат на женско биће, директног је стила и поседује велику дозу еротизма. Убрзо потом објављује једну од својих најпознатијих књига, Свакодневно ништавило (1995), где се износе перипетије једне младе Кубанке, формиране у првим годинама револуције. То је роман који ће јој донети светску славу и популарност, преведен је на више од 20 језика, а доживео је и својеврстан наставак, Сва свакодневница (2010).

Novels that followed are: I Have Given You My Whole Life (1996), The Nostalgia Cafe (1997), story collection Beauty Traders (1998), Dear First Boyfriend (1999), A Miracle in Miami (2001), My Father’s Foot (2002). Sea She-Wolves (2003) is a novel about adventures at sea, and is quite reminiscent of the 19th British novel. The Eternity of a Moment (2004), according to the authoress ‘a novel of silence and the vast treasure of words’,  is a novel about the Chinese emigrants in Cuba during the 19th and 20th century.

Her latest novels are Dancing with Life (2006), an erotic novel whose protagonist is a writer and which is set against the background of London and New York, A Woman Star-Hunter (2007), where a Cuban poetress starts a seemingly ordinary relationship with a female surrealist painter Remedios Varo. Fiction Fidel, a novel-essay (2007), where Castro is represented as a Frankenstein, a manipulator of the world rank, a marketing specialist, who has his own product – the revolution, and his hero Che. That is how he was able to buy the whole world. The book is full of personal pain and rage. The already mentioned novel All Everydayness (2010) is a sequel to the Everyday Nothingness, but at the same time it is an independent novel. And in her latest novel, just out of press (April 2013) A Weeping Woman, she returns to her everlasting inspiration, art and love. It is a novel written for six years, which speaks ‘about art, solitude and us who still believe in art’, as the authoress said at the presentation of this award. The protagonist is Dora Mar, Picasso’s lover for ten years, who completely withdrew after the break-up of their relationship and left for Venice, with a male couple. Once again, Zoé Valdés showed us how fascinated she is with surrealism, as well as her already known ghosts and mysteries. The novel will be published by Planeta from Barcelona in April.      

 где једна кубанска песникиња започиње наизглед обичну везу са надреалистичком сликарком Ремедиос Варо. Фикција Фидел, роман есеј, (2007), где је Кастро представљен као Франкенштајн, манипулатор светског ранга, специјалиста за маркетинг, који има свој производ – револуцију, свог хероја Чеа. Тако је купио читав свет. Књига је пуна личног бола и беса. Већ поменути роман Сва свакодневница (2010), наставак је Свакодневног ништавила, а у исто време и независан роман. И последњи, управо објављени роман (април 2013) Жена која плаче, где се опет враћа вечитој инспирацији, уметности и љубави. Реч је о делу које је стварано шест година, које говори „о уметности, самоћи и нама који још увек верујемо у уметност”, како је изјавила ауторка на додели ове награде. Протагониста је Дора Мар, Пикасова љубавница током десет година, која се након прекида везе потпуно повукла у себе и отишла у Венецију, са једним мушким паром. Још једном, Сое Валдес нам је показала колико је очарана надреализмом, као и својим већ познатим духовима и мистеријама. Роман ће средином априла објавити издавачка кућа Планета из Барселоне.

Zoe Valdes has written several film screenplays: Parallel Lives (Pastor Vega), Amorosa (Pilar Tavora), as well as those yet not filmed: Unbalance and Prophesy.  Besides this, she has directed with her husband a short film Ošuno’s Fondling, as well as a documentary about classical ballet. Her cinema works mostly directed by Ricardo Vega are also well-known: Kuba la bella, Return, Roberto Garcia, Newrork and Gina Peljon.      

Сое Валдес је написала и више сценарија за филмове: Паралелни животи (Пастор Вега), Амороса (Пилар Тавора), као и никад до сада снимљених: Неравнотежа и Пророчанство. Осим тога, она је режирала заједно са својим супругом, краткометражни филм Ошунова миловања, као идокументарни филм о класичном балету. Позната су и њена кинематографска дела: Kuba la bella, Повратак, Роберто Гарсија, Њурорк, Гина Пељон, које је углавном режирао Рикардо Вега.

Her books have been translated into a number of languages, Serbian included (Everyday Nothingness, Sea She-Wolves, The Nostalgia Cafe and, the latest, Ambassador’s Daughter).

Websites: www.zoevaldes.com.fr zoevaldes.wordpress.com