…amid official press silence
By Pedro Pablo Morejon
HAVANA TIMES – Writer Leonardo Padura doesn’t need a lengthy introduction. Many Cubans, who aren’t precisely bookworms, have heard his name.
He just happens to be one of the most read writers in the Spanish language right now, and his vast literary work has been translated into different languages. He has received various literary awards, but it’s worth mentioning that he won the National Literary Prize in 2012, the Critics’ Choice Awards in 2011 and 2014, and the highly-coveted Princess of Asturias Award for Literature in 2015.
Most know him mainly for his character Mario Conde, a nostalgic police officer who aspires to be a writer and is in no way like the archetypes and predictable detectives created by writers who stick to official ideological discourse. In fact, he is the main example of crime novels in Cuba.
However, in addition to the tetralogy of novels about Mario Conde and others that came later, he also has books of great literary value such as “La novela de mi vida” (The book about my life) and “El hombre que amaba a los perros” (The man who loved dogs), just to give you two examples. The latter won him the Critics’ Choice award and in the words of Gina Picart, a prestigious writer and editor in our country, it was the best Cuban novel written in recent decades.
The former had given him enough credibility to be included among the list of candidates for the Nobel Prize of Literature, which will be awarded in October this year, the highest award in the world that is bestowed upon a writer, so it should be a reason for Cuban culture to feel proud.
In a country with so many literary works of indisputable quality, no Cuban has managed to win this supreme recognition, even though we have had three Cervantes prize winners: Alejo Carpentier in 1977, Dulce Maria Loynaz in 1992 and Guillermo Cabrera Infante in 1998.
Well, Cuba’s official press haven’t given this news any coverage, which isn’t at all surprising if we bear in mind the fact that the most widely read writer in our country has been suffering silence from national media and cultural institutions for years now.
The writer has himself said: “The reality is that I have more book launches, editions, recognitions outside of my country than in my country, and these book launches, editions and recognitions are barely echoed in Cuba, when I think that they should be a reason for Cuban culture to rejoice, as I am a Cuban writer, who even lives and writes in Cuba. Who decides this? I don’t know. Why? No idea… This person or people will know why and I guess we’ll find out one day.”
I can imagine these reasons, as Leonardo Paduro has been a writer that makes Cuban leaders uneasy, depicting Cuba’s harsh reality in his literature, which is different to what is portrayed in party-line publicity. Thus, the silence.
This is also why his Princess of Asturias prize garnered pretty much zero attention and the media did the complete opposite when Javier Sotomayor won the same prize, as he was more useful for political interests just like the Henry Reeves Medical Brigade is, which was the center of a huge campaign to promote it for the Nobel Peace Prize.
However, if Padura does win the Nobel Prize for Literature, official press will receive orders to publish this feat, with the scope of him being a worthy son of Culture. Do you doubt it? The same thing was done with Guillermo Cabrera Infante when he won the Cervantes Award.