A conversation with Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo, Cuban dissident and writer

Regina Anavy travels to Reykjavic, Iceland and speaks with Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo.

Via Translating Cuba:

A Conversation with Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

olpl-and-el-clarin
Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo with his most recent book.

Regina Anavy, Reykjavic, June 27, 2016 — Crossing paths with Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo in Reykjavic, Iceland, on June 27, 2016, I had the opportunity to have a conversation with him.

Iceland And Future Plans

Regina Anavy: I understand you are here on a special two-year grant from ICORN [International Cities of Refuge Network].

Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo: Yes. ICORN is an NGO based in Norway. They make contact with city governments. They believe that working with cities is better than working with countries. Maybe there is a conflictive immigration policy, but the cities are happy to have you. So in Europe they have dozens of cities, and I think in America now Pittsburgh is becoming an ICORN city and maybe Las Vegas. But after a year [in Iceland], I will be going back to the U.S., to enter a Ph.D. program in comparative literature at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri.

RA: Are you going to be teaching or doing research?

OLPL: Mainly I will be a teaching assistant in the second year.

RA: Will you be teaching comparative literature in Spanish?

OLPL: I don’t know yet. I guess in both English and Spanish.

RA: Is that a five-year commitment?

OLPL: It could be up to five years to get a Ph.D. in comparative literature. It’s a special track, like a pilot program. It’s called “International Writers Track,” and writers are invited to the department. They know that we are not academics; maybe we don’t work or think as an academic, but somehow the purpose is to give us tools to understand the codes of literary criticism or academic essay. I write literary criticism, but it’s not with literary rigor; it’s my impressions. So it could be very interesting.

RA: So that will give you a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature?

OLPL: If I manage to get through to the end. There are several universities there; this is the one they call “Wash U” because it’s Washington University. I was there for a conference in January 2015. It was like a marathon. I went to an event for human rights in Chicago. There was a lady there, a professor from Poland, who had been following Cuban affairs, so when she found me on Facebook, she told me, “You need to come here. It’s a one-hour flight, and we will pay for you to go back to Brown University” [in 2015, OLPD was an Adjunct Professor of Creative Writing at Brown University]. I went there for a couple of talks, and she asked me about my future, and somehow she had the impression that my future was lost because I was not an American, and she said, “Maybe we can help you here. There is a new initiative going on.”

Finally they nominated me. I didn’t apply for this Ph.D. I mean I sent the documentation but only after I was nominated. Other universities had shown interest, but always you need to start by the phone consult, then the GRI test for mathematics, and maybe somebody assesses you there. But this process circumvented all that, and they were very kind.

They understood that I was here [in Iceland], so there is already one year deferred [for the Ph.D. program]. This is why I cannot defer any longer. So everything came together for Reykjavic and St. Louis, and I was “lost” but then suddenly had two options. I was able to manage, talking openly, to both parties. “I have this option, can I do this? Maybe not for two years, maybe for one; now’s the time to go there [Wash U.] and be a good student after being a bad boy.” I think I will be able to keep on with creative ideas for both these options and at the same time add some discipline, and the writing will be good.

The Future Of Cuba

OLPL: You know I was in Arizona, in April, at the Sedona Forum, with John McCain and the Director of National Security. I saw that they were mainly politicians, people with different positions regarding Cuba, people who have been traveling to Cuba. Usually you talk in front of human rights people who agree with you in a way, but these were people who can really change things.

I was happy to talk there on a panel with plenty of dissidents, and there were Russian dissidents and the realities were terrible, really terrible, and I was somehow trying to put some ideas into this “new cake” about Cuba and how it is not about the embargo but to make sure that we are moving into freedoms in one way or another, not just trying to make money, or like China – the Tiananmen Square Massacre. Are we moving into that or are we making sure from the beginning ….?

RA: Well, that’s what it should be, the human rights situation.

OLPL: Sometimes I become really skeptical and sometimes I push very hard.

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