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The Oval Portrait
The Oval Portrait

The Oval Portrait

Contemporary Cuban Women Writers and Artists

Translated by Margaret Randall, By Soleida Rios


216 Pages, 6 x 9

Formats: Trade Paper, EPUB, Mobipocket, PDF

Trade Paper, $16.95 (US $16.95) (CA $22.95)

Publication Date: April 2018

ISBN 9781609405571

Rights: WOR

Wings Press (Apr 2018)


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The Oval Portrait was originally published as El retrato ovalado (Ediciones Union, Havana, Cuba, 2015). Editor Soleida Ríos set a difficult task for herself and nearly three dozen other Cuban women writers, artists, and thinkers. She asked each to "choose a mask. With it she spins her story so that her own image appears in the story as well as the connection (always mysterious) and the symbol with which she has chosen to represent herself." The result, beyond being a postmodernist tour de force, was "a perfect vehicle for introspection." As Ríos herself puts it: "The game requires us to go deep.... Shall we say: Rather than a portrait, construct a mirror, through which you may touch the difficult and shared places. And then, at the end, ask yourself the question: Which are your favorite lies?"


"A remarkable anthology based on an intriguing idea, with stories that range from the feminist 'Half Hour on the Summit' to the surreal and entertaining 'Sprungli.' Margaret Randall's translations are at once lucid and graceful." —Hettie Jones, author, Love, H: A Correspondence

"This brilliantly conceived, gorgeously translated gathering is, as Margaret Randall puts it in her Translator's Note, a treasure. Some three dozen different voices unfurl these fierce, strange, funny, moving works. I was taken from the first piece to the last (and wished there had been more). This is writing to be celebrated, writing to return to again and again." —Laird Hunt, author, The Evening Road and Neverhome

"As further proof of her tireless, fundamental work in translation, Margaret Randall gives us this revealing Oval Portrait, admirable in its capability to think and to feel, to represent and to imagine a significant group of contemporary Cuban women. It is a borderless, multifaceted portrait, and yet the diverse authors come together at an essential point. As borders blur, as multiple forms are drawn upon, the arbitrariness and violence of all borders, the political and moral character of all forms, become clear. The full expression of female subjectivity, shining through so often in this book, constitutes a challenge to literary tradition, creates other ways of writing." —Víctor Rodríguez Núñez, author, tasks / tareas and night badly written / la noche mal escrita

"A poignant, poetic voice binds together this eclectic collection of texts by Cuban women who sing their souls to rhythms of the island while embodying experiences common to Latin America and beyond." —Gwendolyn Diaz Ridgeway, author, Buenos Aires Noir and Women and Power in Argentine Literature

Author Biography

Margaret Randall (New York, 1936) lived in Cuba from 1969 through 1980 and returns often. In addition to her own literary production (poetry, essay, oral history), she has translated a great deal of Cuban work. Among it: Breaking the Silences: 20th Century Poetry by Cuban Wome), Only the Road / Solo el camino: Eight Decades of Cuban Poetry, Diapositivas / Transparencies by Laura Ruiz Montes, trillos precipicios concurrencias by Alfredo Zaldívar, What the Vampire Told Them by Chely Lima, and books by Israel Domínguez, Yanira Marimón, Reynaldo García Blanco, and Teresa Melo (forthcoming). Soleida Ríos (Santiago de Cuba, 1950). Among her books, the most important are Poesía infiel, El libro roto, Libro cero, El texto sucio, Fuga. Antología personal, Secadero, Escritos al revés (National Literary Critics Prize), Aquí pongamos un silencio, Estrías (Nicolás Guillén National Poetry Prize), and two books of dreams.