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Cantidades hechizadas y silogísticas del sobresalto: La secreta ciencia de José Lezama Lima

Ómar Vargas

Arguably the most important Cuban writer of the 20th century, José Lezama Lima (1910–76), is well known as a poet, essayist, cultural promoter and novelist, but not as a scientist. In fact, there is no evidence of any concrete relationship between him and any pure science discipline. How then it is possible to establish connections between Lezama’s literary works and the disciplines of science? How are certain scientific discoveries and developments, such as the theory of relativity, quantum mechanics, modern logic, thermodynamics, or the Big Bang theory, embraced in the cultural imaginary of Cuba during the first half of the 20th century? And finally, how do those scientific discoveries and developments inform Lezama’s aesthetic production?

Grounded in his disciplinary experience in both literary and mathematical studies, Vargas attempts to unearth the overlaps and connections between science and art, thus offering a new critical apparatus with which scholars can study Lezama’s works. In this book, he provides a close reading of Lezama’s narrative works, including his two novels—Paradiso and Oppiano Licario—, as well as his essays, press articles and interviews. The author also examines the catalogue of Lezama’s personal library, revealing that his poetics are based on an original and fascinating appropriation of concepts, problems, solutions and rhetorical devices in science.


"Cantidades hechizadas represents a careful analysis of the relationship between logic and poetry, or science and art, in the essays, poems, and prose of Lezama Lima. It does an excellent job of summarizing the history of scholarship on Lezama, and of dialoguing with that history. At the same time, it offers a singular intervention into this tradition, attending more seriously to the theme of science—and to the history of science—as it surfaces in Lezama’s work than previous research.

This book will be of enormous interest to Lezama scholars, and those interested in Latin American poetics, including that of magical realism. This is due to the close textual analyses, the engagement with the history of Lezama scholarship, the breadth of the investigations, and the examination of the connection of logic and creation which is so key to Latin American poetics."

—Brett S. Levinson, State University of New York at Binghamton



Ómar Vargas is an assistant professor of Spanish in the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures at the University of Miami where he has been a faculty member since 2015. Vargas completed his PhD in Spanish American literature at the University of Texas at Austin and his undergraduate studies in mathematics at Universidad Nacional de Colombia. His research interests focus on the relationships between scientific discoveries and developments, and the narrative fiction of Latin America and the Caribbean in twentieth and twenty-first centuries, particularly in the cases of authors such as José Lezama Lima, Jorge Luis Borges, Salvador Elizondo, and Gabriel García Márquez. He is currently exploring the transition of the scientist to a writer in the case of Argentine author Ernesto Sábato. He has published in Latin American Literary Review, Ciberletras, The Borges Center, Revista Revolución y Cultura, Nueva Revista del Pacífico, and La Habana Elegante.



PSRL 82. Paper. $45.00. e-Book available. 


Page last updated on 26 June 2021.

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