CONFESSIONS IN THE THIRD PERSON
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ÁNGEL ARANGO was born in Havana, the 25th of March 1926, to Spanish parents, a fact which may have had some influence in his finding pleasure in the literature of his own language.
As a matter of fact he lived in Spain from the age of 6 to 8 and even attended school there for one year in the countryside, in a well-maintained primary school in a small town in the 1930s, during one of the final years of the Republic.
Back in Cuba after his sister died and was buried in his mother’s town, he was raised in Havana and developed a powerful inclination for reading.
His parents divorced in his early teens, forcing upon him a serious outlook on life at a young age.
He studied English and typing, at that time considered important for finding a job, a clerical job, in town. As in confirmation, he worked as a typist for some time for a lawyer who was compiling a dictionary. This was agreeable work, but it did not compensate well. Some time later he worked in a diamond factory, first in the office, because he was too young, and then, when he was of age, as a cutter.
He started working as a Traffic Representative for Cuban Airlines when it was part of the PAN AMERICAN system and finished his university law studies at the University of Havana in 1949 (Doctor en Derecho) while working day and night shifts. Airline work was something that he always enjoyed because it allowed him free rein for his imagination and allowed him to feel a part of the rest of the world and not just of a local region or continent.
Working in the airline, after 6 years, he married a girl from Puerto Rico and they had three children.
They stayed in Cuba.
He began writing and publishing in the fifties. He wrote film commentaries for GENTE, a critical, non-conventional magazine that was suppressed by the Batista dictatorship in 1952. He published stories at that time in “LA QUINCENA” , a Catholic magazine that was also nonconformist and even combative. As an example, there was a short-story published in this magazine about a Puerto Rican soldier who dies in Korea. His first story in the more mainstream media appeared in CARTELES, entitled “El Ahorcado” (in 1957) and this was followed in the same magazine by “El Día que Nueva York penetró en el cielo” (“The Day New York reached Heaven”), which began his journey into the field of science fiction. In its original version the story starts with Russian and American millionaires, something which in the subsequent publication of the story was modified because there was a Soviet Union and no millionaires in Russia. History has since confirmed the plausibility of the first version.
Writing and typing was principally done on his work machine (an “Underwood”) and at home (a “Remington Noiseless”). Inspiration was found everywhere and at any available minute.
“I started traveling as part of my job practically after one year work,” Arango says. First to Miami with his mother (1902-1994) and brother (1938 -1991) as the result of a first prize in an airline sales-theory contest (both are buried in New York). And then to Mexico, and Puerto Rico several times: from San Juan across the country to Ponce and Adjuntas. During this period he visited New York City once, after the story had been written, and was surprised at the capacity of imagination to approximate reality. Although the story – he claims — is not perjorative but is full of sympathy for its character.
At the end of the first year after the triumph of the Revolution, he was assigned to work in Atlanta, GA, as an off-line representative trying to promote tourism to Cuba. A year later he was transferred to New York as CUBANA‘s General Manager for North America, where he stayed for another year, closing up operations in all areas in an orderly fashion following the imposition of the US embargo.
He flew to Toronto with his family, now complete, once his son, the third child, had been born in NYC. They returned to Havana in a chartered flight with a cargo of pigs.
At CUBANA, he was assigned to the Commercial Department, where he has remained.
He reestablished contact with Cuban writers at home and in U.N.E.A.C. [The Cuban Union of Writers and Artists] In spite of the great activity he had to develop in his airline work, he managed to maintain regular meetings once a week (“tertulias”) where some of the writers that were later published brought their first works to be read and discussed. His home was then at Calle 19 and F, a few blocks from U.N.E.A.C.
He definitively decided for a very imaginative literature during and after these “tertulias”, in short-stories and novels, because they were more vital and stirring. These included myths and legends and experimental and bold SF. SF on its border, not with realism, but rather with its opposite border. And stepping beyond it.
His stories sometimes appeared in the magazines UNION and LA GACETA, before being published in book form.
His first book published was “¿ADÓNDE VAN LOS CEFALOMOS?”, a collection of SF short stories [Ediciones R, Cuadernos ERRE, 86 pages; Havana, 1964]. This book contains the story of the same name, from which the whole world of his trilogy and unpublished novel sprang, but with its concepts and philosophy more fully developed in the novels.
In 1965 he was assigned to the Legal Dept. of the newly created Civil Aeronautics Institute, which had split off from the Ministry of Transport, and he started working in air law in addition to the other legal matters. This department included among its responsibilities the area of international air policy in which he has specialized in subsequent years of work.
Since 1966, when he first attended two ICAO conferences (on passenger liability limits and the first CARF), both in Montreal, he has participated in the most important meetings in international air law up to the ICAO-UNIDROIT Diplomatic Conference celebrated in Capetown (Republic of South Africa), in 2001, and the meeting of its Preparatory Commission, in Montreal , in 2002. Concurrently, he has been participant as legal advisor in over fifty bilateral air transport agreements.
He belongs to at least two international air law associations for Latin America and Spain and is in the list of arbitrators available to the International Civil Aviation Organization . He has published more than 15 articles on matters of air law and international policy in specialized magazines outside of Cuba (Peru, Italy, Spain and Belgium). Arango was also assigned as expert twice in ICAO-UNDP programs. In Panama (1991) and in Ecuador (1993).
In 1971, he divorced and married a Cuban, his current wife.
In the 38 years since ¿Adónde van los cefalomos? , Arango has published the following:
First, collections of SF, myths and legends, up to 1980:
- “The Black Planet” (El planeta negro, 1966).—SF Short-stories, 74 pages. Ediciones GRANMA, Serie del Dragón—Havana.
“The Art of Robots” (Robotomaquia, 1967).---SF Short-stories, 74 pages. Ediciones UNION.–Havana.
“The End of Chaos Comes Silently” (El fin del caos llega quietamente, 1971)--- SF Short-stories, 109 pages. Cuadernos UNION’–Havana.
“The Creatures” (Las Criaturas, 1978)---Myths and legends. Short-stories, 51 pages. –Colección MINIMA; Narrativa No,. 25.- Editorial Letras Cubanas.-- Havana.
“The Monkey´s Rainbow” (El arco iris del mono,1980)---SF and legends. Short-stories, 200 pages.—Coleción RADAR No. 17.—Ciencia-ficción.—Editorial Letras Cubanas.—Havana.
From 1980 to date, three novels tied by a common origin but very experimental, daring in their conception and philosophy, but also in their ethics, in the literary rather than the moral sense of the word. “Writing [SF] without human enemies is a challenge imposed by a manner of thinking, but it requires a more difficult way of writing.”
The novels are:
- “Transparency” (Transparencia , 1982)—SF novel, 114 pages.—Colección MANJUARI. Ciencia-ficción. Ediciones UNION.—Havana.
“Crossroad” (Coyuntura, 1984)—SF novel, 120 pages.---Colección MANJUARI. Ciencia-ficción. Ediciones UNION.—Havana.
“Sider” (Sider, 1994)---SF novel, 139 pages.—Colección CONTEMPORANEOS. Ediciones UNION.—Havana.