Liminal Visitors to an Island on the Edge: Sartre and Ginsberg in Revolutionary Cuba

Stephen Fay

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The Cuban revolution drastically altered the country’s socio-cultural calibration and from 1959 pleasure-seeking tourists made way for intellectual travellers keen to contribute to the revolutionary process. Jean-Paul Sartre arrived on the island in 1960, Allen Ginsberg followed in 1965; their experiences and observations couldn’t have been more different. Although explanation for this discrepancy could be sought in the ideological idiosyncrasies of the two writers, this essay argues that the island visited was not the same. Using a liminal ontology inherited from anthropology to explore the Cuban revolution as a rite of national passage, this essay hopes to illuminate some of the key contours of the island’s shifting socio-cultural topography over five critical years of consolidation. Through the lenses offered by these two travelling writers, internal and external forces appear to propel revolutionary Cuba beyond a liminal period of archipelagic flux towards a more determinedly insular and strictly structured archetype by the mid- 1960s.
Original languageEnglish
Article number5
Pages (from-to)407-425
Number of pages18
JournalStudies in Travel Writing
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 20 Oct 2011


  • Jean-Paul Sartre; Allen Ginsberg; rite of passage; limen; archipelago; insularity; social structure; communitas


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