1910 - 1976

“The revolutionary simpleton is everywhere.”

- Jośe Lezama Lima

Jośe Lezama Lima was born in Marianao, Cuba on December 19, 1910. A sickly child, Lezama Lima passed the time reading. At 27, he published his first work, the poem Death of Narcissus, which brought him national acclaim. In 1938 he earned a law degree, but chose instead to pursue his true passion, literature. After helping to found three short lived literary reviews, he joined with editor/literary critic José Rodríguez Feo and Virgilio Piñera they found the arts periodical Orígenes, considered one of the most significant literary magazines of the twentieth century. Initial support of the Cuban revolution earned Lezama Lima one of the vice-presidencies of the Cuban Union of Writers and Artists (UNEAC). His favor was short lived. In 1965, he married María Luisa Batista though by several accounts, the marriage was never consummated. Instead he enjoyed a series of discreet gay relationships. Around this time the Cuban socialist regime was conducting systematic purges of gay people whose conduct was considered contrary to the revolutionary morals. When Lezama Lima published his masterpiece, the semi autobiographical novel Paradiso (1966), the book was internationally considered a classic. However, the book’s lack of commitment to the Cuban Revolution as well as its gay content put the author in a precarious position. Though never imprisoned, he clearly was out of favor with the government. Although he left his native Cuba only twice in his lifetime, his poetry, essays, and novels draw their concepts from a variety of cultures and historical periods, all accessed through his beloved personal library of over ten thousand books. Jose Lezama Lima died in on August 9, 1976 at age 65. At the time of his death, he had been working on a book that was the continuation of Paradiso. The manuscript was published posthumously as Oppiano Licario in 1977. He is considered one of the key influences in subsequent generations of Latin American writers.


Gender Male

Sexual Orientation Gay

Gender Identity Cisgender

Ethnicity Latinx

Nations Affiliated Cuba

Era/Epoch Cold War (1945-1991) Cuban Revolution (1953-1958) Information Age (1970-present)

Field(s) of Contribution

Art, Music, Literature & Theater




World History

Commemorations & Honors

Cuban Postal Service Commemorative Stamp

Jośe Lezama Lima's House Becomes National Monument (2010)


Original Biography Author
Owen Keehnen
Biography Edited By
Allo Kerstein
Resources Coordination
Carrie Maxwell