Antonio José Ponte was born in Matanzas, Cuba in 1964. He first worked as a hydraulics engineer, and later as a professor of literature, script writer, essayist and author. In 1999 he lived for a year in Porto, Portugal, on an EU scholarship. After Ponte’s early essays and poems were awarded state prizes in 1991 and 1995, he was expelled from the Cuban National Union of Writers and Artists in 2003. Since that time he has been barred from holding any official position, and his works were banned from being published in Cuba. Since 2006 he has been living in Madrid, not being allowed to return to his country. He publishes regularly in various publications, including the US-based online literary magazine »La Habana Elegante«, and was on the advisory board of the Madrid-based, regime-critical magazine »Encuentro de la Cultura Cubana« while living in Cuba. Today, he is one of its directors.
Ponte is among the most idiosyncratic Cuban artists. His most significant essay, »El abrigo de aire« (1995; t: The refuge of the air), castigates the misappropriation of the works of the Cuban freedom fighter and author José Martí to ideologically legitimise the revolution and Fidel Castro’s government, as well as the willingness of writers and literary critics to support this abuse. Further essays have been published in, among others, the collection »Las comidas profundas« (1997, t: Meaning to eat), which has also been translated into French and English. Ponte describes himself as holding an imaginary professorship in »Ruinology«. The decay of Havana has run like a red ribbon through his work ever since the 1997 collection of poems »Asiento en las ruinas« (t: A seat in the ruins). His short story »Un arte de hacer ruinas« (2000; t: The art of making ruins) in the collection »Tales from the Cuban Empire« (2002), published in the US, tells the story of an architecture student who sets out to write his doctoral thesis on mezzanines. Alongside his Ph.D. supervisor, the protagonist wanders through the uninhabitable houses of Havana before descending into an extensive subterranean tunnel system, built by Castro for defence purposes, while on the surface more and more houses collapse. The deeper the student delves into the tunnel system, the more fantastic the story becomes. »To legitimise his political power, Castro has to constantly assure us that US Americans threaten to invade. And to architecturally legitimise this discourse, the city has to appear as if it has already been overrun and bombarded«, says Ponte in the documentary »The New Art of Making Ruins« (Germany, 2006), in which he is the main interview partner, guiding the viewer through the ruins of Havana. Ponte’s most recent work, published in Spain, »La fiesta vigilada« (2007; Eng. »The Supervised Party«, 2002) once again deals with the destruction of Havana.
© international literature festival berlin