Severo Sarduy

By: William Nericcio
February 25, 2013


Cuban writer SEVERO SARDUY (1937–93) was the toast of Paris. He was Roland Barthes’ student, longtime lover/partner of François Wahl (editor of Derrida and Lacan), and matchmaker — to French readers — for the likes of Gabriel García Márquez and Jose Lezama Lima. Poised between the at-times bitter taste of full-on Euro Structuralism and Post-structuralism, Sarduy’s evolving fragmented literary and theoretical publications — including the novels Gestos (1963), Cobra (1972), and Maitreya (1978); the 1969 essay collection Escrito sobre un cuerpo (Carol Meier’s 1982 English translation includes part of La simulación, Sarduy’s 1982 critique of a queer aesthetic); and the 1974 poetry collection Big Bang — are Baudrillardian; or else Baudrillard, with whom he no doubt swapped notes at Tel Quel cocktail parties, is Sarduvian. His wordplay is serious, the literary tapestry he weaves is noted for both grandiloquence and sassy wit, and he moves between the literary and the scientific with alacrity. Escrito sobre un cuerpo theorizes masking/transvestism through an entomological lens: Did you know transvestites are like insects that use camouflage and metamorphosis in pursuit of pleasure (or is it erasure)? This is some of the best critical theory since Deleuze and Guattari went gardener on our asses with their rhizome-laced theoretical soliloquies, and with it Sarduy bridges the gap between Latin American and European intellectual history.


On his or her birthday, HiLobrow irregularly pays tribute to one of our high-, low-, no-, or hilobrow heroes. Also born this date: Rudolf Steiner.

READ MORE about members of the Anti-Anti-Utopian Generation (1934-43).