In recent years the literature of the Dominican Republic, traditionally ignored by Latin American literary historians and critics, has slowly started to attract the attention of non-specialized readers and academics. Since the 1980s, writers such as Aurora Arias, Ángela Hernández, Pedro Antonio Valdez, and Rita Indiana Hernández—to name just a few of the most important authors currently writing in the island—together with those Dominican and Dominican-American authors publishing in English from outside the insular context (e.g., Junot Díaz, Josefina Báez) have been producing a distinct aesthetic project that challenges that of their predecessors, especially in its representation of Dominican culture as a diverse and dialogic arena. The narrative production of Fernando Valerio-Holguín (1956)—inaugurated two decades ago with the publication of Viajantes insomnes—participates of this renovative current in contemporary Dominican literature. What Valerio-Holguín achieves with his last collection of short-stories: Café Insomnia, is not only his most ambitious aesthetic endeavor, but a carefully crafted masterpiece that has come to shake the already agitated Dominican literary space.
Surprisingly enough, this same iconoclastic feature in Valerio-Holguín’s book is what makes the texts of Café Insomnia, in a sense, so “Dominican.” The 25 hybrids of fiction and poetry that the author so graciously calls cuentemas form a finely integrated corpus aim at imagining a new geography for Dominican culture. Valerio-Holguín performs this aesthetic remapping of the insular ethos by establishing a ludic narrative network whose axes alternate between Santo Domingo, La Vega, and Neyba, in the Dominican Republic, and other cities around the globe such as Madrid, Amsterdam, Granada, Budapest, Barcelona, Paris, Grenoble, New Orleans, Málaga, New York, and Mexico City. Such a playful technique in the treatment of space and narrative allows Valerio-Holguín to construct his characters according to a similar logic. Furthermore, the errant nature of the characters in Café Insomnia speaks at a radical level of the complex array of elements brought to bear in the construction of personal and collective identities. NR