Other Letters to Milena/Otras cartas a Milena offers a parallel translation of a mixed-genre work by acclaimed Cuban writer Reina María Rodríguez in which poetry merges into creative nonfiction, culminating in a series of essays.
Otras cartas a Milena was originally published in Cuba in 2003 and shows Rodríguez confronting a new post-Soviet world and the realities of diasporic existence, which have a profound effect even on Cubans like Rodríguez who continue to live and work in their home nation. The book’s title references Franz Kafka’s 1952 work Letters to Milena. The allusion signals Rodríguez’s participation in the long cosmopolitan tradition asserted by Cuban writers and scholars of island literature. Rodríguez’s youngest daughter, featured in the letters that make up the collection’s centerpiece, “A Girl’s Story,” was named after Milena Jesenská, the recipient of Kafka’s letters.
With its bilingual format, Other Letters to Milena/Otras cartas a Milena makes an important body of work available both to English readers in general (this will be the first English translation of a complete Rodríguez collection not excerpted from a larger work) and to Spanish language readers unable to obtain the collection in any form, given the difficulty of distributing Cuban literature outside that country. The collection also includes critical commentary by Kristin Dykstra informed by Dykstra’s lengthy discussions with the author about her work.
Available directly from the University of Alabama Press is a deluxe edition that includes a handmade, limited-edition color linocut print and letterpress-printed poem signed by both Rodríguez and artist Alejandro Sainz.
Born in Cuba in 1952, Reina María Rodríguez is the author of more than thirty books of poetry and prose, including Las fotos de la Señora Loss, La detención del tiempo/Time’s Arrest (bilingual edition), Bosque negro, and Violet Island and Other Poems (bilingual anthology). She is a two-time winner of the Casa de las Américas prize for poetry and was awarded the Italo Calvino award for her first novel. In 2013 Rodríguez won Cuba’s National Literature Prize, and in 2014 she received the prestigious Pablo Neruda Ibero-American Award for Poetry. Kristin Dykstra translated Reina María Rodríguez’s La detención del tiempo/Time’s Arrest and cotranslated Rodríguez’s Violet Island and Other Poems. She also translated two books by Omar Pérez, and her translations of complete poetry collections by Juan Carlos Flores and Angel Escobar are forthcoming from the University of Alabama Press. Dykstra was the recipient of the 2012 National Endowment for the Arts Literature Translation Fellowship.
“Other Letters to Milena/Otras cartas a Milena is not only interesting for its literary and historical value–what makes it compelling is that much of it is addressed to Rodríguez’s daughter. Her daughter, who shares a name with the woman with whom Kafka corresponds and falls in love, thus becomes a vehicle with which to explore, often in an intimate and familiar tone, various personal, political, and literary themes.”
–Rosa Alcalá, translator of Cecilia Vicuña’s El Templo and Cloud-net
Includes handmade, limited-edition color linocut print and letterpress-printed poem signed by both Rodríguez and artist Alejandro Sainz (see image to right)