How to Lose Friends / Angel Santiesteban

Angel Santiesteban, Havana, 23 December 2015 — These days I’m immersed in the culmination of my next novel, which I should deliver in February for its possible publication; for this reason, I have dedicated the last two months, in a tireless way, to improving the prose, born from the heat and emotion of the most recent creation. I’ve barely taken time for cultural recreation, repressing — now that it’s possible — going to the theater, movies, ballet, among other spaces of my personal consumption, after having yearned for it for two and a half years, because the dictatorship that considers thinking differently to be dangerous, especially if it involves an artist, decided to send me to prison.

It’s indisputable — and the reason for this post — that I haven’t been able to visit and comply with the demands of some friends, brother masons and political activists, who would like to see me more frequently.

The rigor with which I apply myself to writing totally absorbs me, to the point that sometimes I lose track of the time that I take up dreaming which I should be using for this final revision; however, some of those important friends are insulted by my absence, thinking I’m distancing myself from their devotion.

Likewise, I’ve received by email complaints from other friends, asking for more warmth from me, which I consider as personal pride; but I’m not lying if I confess to them and explain that when I write short stories, in general, they’re created by a breath, a hit of a chisel that sculpts them with a minimum of blows.

It’s not like that with novels: Then this breath is converted into a persistent state while its realization lasts. I’m possessed for months; an ecstasy keeps me transported to the actual time of the plot in question. It’s the most effective way, particularly for me, to advance and master the characters and their conflicts.

Of course at this rate I’m afraid of being alone and without a social life, and I question whether I work well or badly by remaining isolated, like being expelled from the real world, delivered to the profession of writing.

But what other quality of life could I assume if it’s the only way I know of feeling useful, to breathe in peace, to bring to my dear friends themselves, brother masons and brothers in the struggle, through my texts, that reflection on justice and nobility for the society where we come together? I write for my time, and my spaces of struggle and longings converge: friendship, fraternity and unity in political activism.

Although I appear to be absent, I am, through literature, very close to each one of you and to the national problems that I try to reflect in my books. And very soon — between this writing and the next — I will appear to receive your hugs with the same zeal with which I profess to you that I hold your friendship, in order to then celebrate together a new birth of that literary son that I bring into the world, that I humbly bring to the national culture, our struggle and our shared dreams.

But God makes me lower my head and return every day to ask all of you: If I didn’t have you, then why am I creating literature? For whom would I write?

I wish you a Merry Christmas, although we are aware that it won’t be as we would like while the dictatorship exists.

Big hugs.

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats

Havana, December 2015, under conditional “liberty.”

Translated by Regina Anavy

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