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Who’s Afraid of Virgilio Piñera? Violence and Fear in Dos viejos pánicos (1968)

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Abstract

Dos viejos pánicos (1968) from Vigilio Piñera (1912–1979) explores the violence inherent in the repetition of everyday existence by portraying a routine day in the life of a sixty-year-old married couple. The quotidian violence that characterizes the couple’s lives is provoked by fear. Piñera’s characters, Tota and Tabo, represent a domestic dispute that mirrors the spectacality of the political context that was taking place in Cuba offstage in the late 1960s. This violence is sparked by a fear that characterizes Tota and Tabo’s existence and comes between them and the outside world. Their fear is triggered by the knowledge that everything about them—including their intimate secrets—is known by another. This comprehensive fear is embodied in a planilla the couple is forced to confront in the second act. The planilla, in Dos viejos pánicos, is a governmental survey that becomes the personification of fear for the middle-aged couple. Their violence against one another and against the outside world can be witnessed in their struggle with, and attempted elimination of, this very planilla. The internal world of Tota and Tabo reflects the national context (that of Cuba in the late 1960s, but also the larger Latin American political and social context) and portrays a growing fear and the violence that it provokes. The small, claustrophobic existence that the couple describes is doubled by the political events that surround the writing of Dos viejos pánicos, a context in which the spectacularity is mirrored by Piñera’s work.

Keywords

  • Domestic Dispute
  • Cuban Revolution
  • Revolutionary Government
  • Everyday Existence
  • Violent Repression

These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

Tabo: Tota, ¿qué vamos a comer mañana?

Tota: Carne con miedo, mi amor, carne con miedo.

Virglio Piñera Dos viejos pánicos

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Notes

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  25. Piñera’s theater often plays with names to make a deeper suggestion about the characters and the play’s arguments. This employment can also be seen in José Triana’s landmark La noche de los asesinos (1965), where the grown siblings are named Cuca, Beba, and Lalo—an act that emphasizes their status as children and their desire to emancipate themselves from their parents. Triana, José, La noche de los asesinos (Madrid: Cátedra, 2001).

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  31. The use of light here remembers the use of light in Piñera’s “La isla en peso,” the essential poem that considers the effect of the island’s insularity on constructing the poet. In the poem, the light, seen in the dazzling sunlight of the day, like the water that surrounds the island, weighs heavy and overwhelming on the bodies that it takes in. Matías Montes Huidobro discusses the importance of light in Piñera’s work. He believes that it is at this moment that fear becomes another personality within the play and connects this with Piñera’s Electra Garrigó. Piñera, Vigilio, “La isla en peso,” La vida entera (La Habana: UNEAC, 1968) 25–42.

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© 2010 Katherine Ford

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Ford, K. (2010). Who’s Afraid of Virgilio Piñera? Violence and Fear in Dos viejos pánicos (1968). In: Politics and Violence in Cuban and Argentine Theater. Palgrave Macmillan, New York. https://doi.org/10.1057/9780230105225_2

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