An Inquiry into Choteo
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An Inquiry into Choteo by Jorge Mañach, translated by Jacqueline Loss

About Jorge Mañach

Jorge Mañach is one of the most important Cuban thinkers of the 20th century. His activity as a philosopher, scholar, journalist, historian, and politician is an index of Cuba’s dramas and conflicts at that time. Mañach, author of Martí, El apóstol, is largely responsible for not only construing the 20th century image of one of the nation’s founders, but also for dissecting the conflicted relationship between Cuba and the United States, in the polemical Manifesto of the extremist political group ABC. His diverse list of writings include the foreword to a clandestine edition of Fidel Castro’s famous 1953 speech, History will absolve me. He also belonged to the Cuban Association of the CIA-backed Congress for Cultural Freedom whose aim was to destroy anti-totalitarian thought worldwide.

The first English translation of Jorge Mañach’s An Inquiry into Choteo (1928), undertaken by the scholar, Jacqueline Loss, has all the elements of a return, a journey back, a repair. The author of this classic essay on Cuban culture was a translator of ideas and texts from English to Spanish written and read in Cuba in the first half of the 20th century. Mañach translated and glossed over Eliot, Pound, Stevens, Santayana, James, and Dewey. His most emblematic essay, An Inquiry into Choteo was, at the same time, another translation exercise: an attempt to codify Cuban culture through one of its (un) civil practices. With this translation into English, An Inquiry into Choteo completes its meaning.

Rafael Rojas, author of Fighting Over Fidel: The New York Intellectuals and the Cuban Revolution

This is more than a translation of a foundational work, it is a reckoning.  No longer can English-speaking audiences hide from Mañach’s great call to disorder. Through Loss’s deft and erudite translation, this elusive gem of new world performance theory retains its attitude for critical play.  This work offers embers, ever ready to set aflame what we thought we knew about humor, the colonial, and the deliberate activities behind national meaning and the strange, systematic practices it can’t quite contain.  Loss’s accomplishment is a gift to interamerican thought, an alternate starting point in the repertoire of speech acts, especially rich for the study of race and gender and all creative negotiations with place and scale.

Alexandra T. Vazquez, author of Listening in Detail: Performances of Cuban Music:

An Inquiry into Choteo
From the introduction to An Inquiry into Choteo

The fact that he is a difficult figure to pin down, textually and ideologically across his life, is part of my own motivation to carry out this translation of one of the most authoritative essays in Spanish, comparable to other classic meditations on Latin American and national identity such as José Martí’s “Nuestra América”, José Enrique Rodó’s Ariel, José Carlos Mariátegui’s Seven Interpretive Essays on Peruvian Reality, and Octavio Paz’s The Labyrinth of Solitude, among others.

Jacqueline Loss

The Translator

Jacqueline Loss is a professor of Latin American Literary and Cultural Studies at the University of Connecticut. She is the author of Dreaming in Russian: The Cuban Soviet Imaginary (2013) and Cosmopolitanisms and Latin America: Against the Destiny of Place (2005) and co-editor of Caviar with Rum: Cuba-USSR and the Post-Soviet Experience (with José Manuel Prieto, 2012) and New Short Fiction from Cuba (with Esther Whitfield, 2007). Her essays and translations have appeared in NepantlaChasqui, Latino and Latina WritersLa Habana Elegante, New Centennial Review, BombLa GacetaKamchatka, Words Without Borders, The Brooklyn Rail, among other publications. The Spanish translation of Dreaming in Russian: The Cuban Soviet Imaginary is forthcoming in Almenara Press.

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