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World Literature Today (1987) - Cabrera Infante and the Work of Alfred Hitchcock




Discusses the significance of director Alfred Hitchcock to the fiction and film criticism of literary writer Guillermo Cabrera Infante. Example of Hitchcock films that are well represented in the books of Cabrera Infante; Attitude of Cabrera Infante towards Hitchcock; Reference to Cabrera Infante's book entitled "Arcadia todas las noches."


Cabrera Infante and the Work of Alfred Hitchcock


Alfred Hitchcock, a director of much influence on numerous filmmakers and writers, is of significant importance to the fiction and film criticism of Guillermo Cabrera Infante. From the time when he was writing criticism in the magazine Carteles and the literary supplement Lunes de Revolution in Cuba in the 1950s and early 1960s,1 a period during which he also gave the lectures collected in Arcadia todas las noches (Arcadia Every Night; 1978), through the years of his early and later fiction, Cabrera Infante has preserved an interest in the work of this director, whose films are well represented in his books. Vertigo plays an especially important part in Tres tristes tigres (1964; Eng. Three Trapped Tigers, 1971). Cabrera Infante devoted a lecture to Hitchcock in Arcadia todas las noches and included several reviews of the director's films in Un oficio del siglo XX (A Twentieth-Century Job; 1973), his book of collected criticism from Carteles and Lunes de Revolution. Certainly, "Hitchcock is the director who most attracts and fascinates him," as Isabel Alvarez-Borland has said.2 In a 1985 interview Cabrera Infante spoke of the importance of Hitchcock to his career, summarizing his "attitudes" toward the director as follows: "There are several attitudes: first, the totally innocent spectator — that is, I became acquainted with Hitchcock without knowing that he was Hitchcock. This happened in my youth ... at...

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  1. For biographical data, see Rosa Maria Pereda, Guillermo Cabrera Infante, Madrid, EDAF, 1978, pp. 243-45.
  2. Isabel Alvarez-Borland, Discontinuidad y ruptura en Guillermo Cabrera Infante, Gaithersburg, Md., Hispamerica, 1982, p. 126. All translations are mine unless otherwise noted.
  3. Guillermo Cabrera Infante, interview with Kenneth E. Hall, 20 November 1985. Subsequent citations use the abbreviation KEH.
  4. See Guillermo Cabrera Infante, Un oficio del siglo XX, Barcelona, Seix Barral, 1963, p. 371 for comments on the innovative role of Hitchcock in film history. Subsequent citations from Oficio use the abbreviation OS.
  5. Guillermo Cabrera Infante, Arcadia todas las noches, Barcelona, Seix Barral, 1978, p. 67. Subsequent citations use the abbreviation ATN.
  6. Maria Acosta Cruz, "The Discourse of Excess: The Latin American Neobaroque and James Joyce," diss., SUNY-Binghamton, 1984, pp. 19, 28.
  7. See Alfred Hitchcock and François Truffaut, Hitchcock, Helen G. Scott, tr., New York, Simon & Schuster, 1967, pp. 98-100.
  8. I am indebted to Dr. Gilberto Gomez for help in clarifying this quotation.
  9. For a discusion of the visual style of Vertigo, see Barthelemy Amengual, "Hitchcock contre Tristan, " in Alfred Hitckcock, Michel Esteve, ed., Paris, Lettres Modernes/Minard, 1971, pp. 45-53. Cabrera Infante cites the Amengual article in ATN, pp. 73-74.
  10. Wylie Sypher, Four Stages of Renaissance Style: Transformation in Art and Literature 1400-1700, Garden City, N.Y., Double-day, 1965, pp. 112-13.
  11. See A. R. Burn, The Pelican History of Greece, Harmonds-worth, Eng., Penguin, 1965, pp. 135-36.
  12. Eric Rohmer and Claude Chabrol, Hitchcock: The First Forty-Four Films, Stanley Hochman, tr., New York, Ungar, 1979.
  13. Guillermo Cabrera Infante, "Viaje verbal a la Habana, Ah Vana! Entrevista de Isabel Alvarez-Borland con G. Cabrera Infante, arquitecto de una ciudad de palabras erigida en el tiempo," Hispamerica, April 1982, pp. 66-67.
  14. Ardis Nelson, "Tres tristes tigres y el cine," Bloomington, Indiana University Department of Spanish and Portuguese, 1976, pp. 19—20. Nelson suggested to me this tendency of Silvestre.
  15. Page references are to Guillermo Cabrera Infante, Three Trapped Tigers, Donald Gardner and Suzanne Jill Levine, trs., New York, Harper & Row, 1971. The original was published in Barcelona by Seix Barral in 1964.
  16. Nelson (pp. 18—19) also notes the use of "la memoire in-volontaire" in the passage and cites part of the quotation which appears directly below in this study.
  17. The nature of this technique in Vertigo was explained to me in a course at the University of Arizona by Dr. Ron Stottlemyer.
  18. The present article is taken, in revised form, from my 1986 doctoral dissertation, "The Function of Cinema in the Works of Guillermo Cabrera Infante and Manuel Puig," directed by Dr. Lanin A. Gyurko and read by Drs. Eliana Rivero and Jose Promis, at the University of Arizona. In a still different form, the article was read at the Twelfth American Comparative Literature Conference, Florida State University, 29 January 1987.