Children’s Book Mobilizes Cuba’s State Security

‘Los arboles que querian volar’ (The trees that wanted to fly), by Andres Gomez Quevedo, rebel against an evil king’s repressive laws.

Andres Gomez Quevado’s father was forced to reveal who had a copy of the book his son had given as a gift, so State Security could confiscate them. Photo: 14ymedio

By Luz Escobar (14ymedio)

HAVANA TIMES – Trees that want to fly and rebel against an evil king’s repressive laws. A child and a magic creature help them and accompany them on their adventure, the path to finding “the prized fairy dust, which is banned just like magic is.” This is the book that State Security wants to make disappear ASAP in San Luis, in the Santiago de Cuba province. They are persecuting and harassing writer Andres Gomez Quevedo’s family and friends, so as to confiscate copies the author had given as gifts.

The author has denounced the way his father, who he says is an “impeccable” citizen, was treated by Cuba’s political police, “as if he were a criminal.” “They took the book away from my aunt who is an elderly woman. Did they really need to frighten her like that?” the young author asked on his Facebook page, on Saturday.

Gomez Quevedo tells 14ymedio that he started writing the book, Los arboles que querian volar, in 2012, but that “Life and work got in his way” and he put it aside up until he decided to pick up where he left off, some 6 years ago. “It’s a story of fantasy, I used this and its characters to parody reality, which has been done many times before in the history of literature,” he stated.

When he finished writing it, he looked for different publishing houses to release his book. “I didn’t send it off to a contest, because I don’t like them. I sent it to the Oriente publishing house and they told me they liked it, but things didn’t go any further than that,” he said. He was left waiting for answers from other Cuban publishing houses that he had contacted, but after more than two years without hearing anything back, he didn’t want to wait around anymore and looked for other ways on the Internet to get his book published.

“Publishway were the first ones to get back to me. They have a section called Chiado Kids, which publishes literature for children and young people, and we began to do all the paperwork. It was a little hard for me because I had to pay 600 euros to the publisher out of my own pocket for the first 50 copies and pay the shipping cost from Portugal to Havana,” Gomez Quevedo explained, who has been living in the capital for some 12 years now.

“It was in my interest because the book wouldn’t be sold here in Cuba, but I have my loved ones and could make the most of the copies and give them as presents to friends and those close to me,” he added. Finally, the book was released in December 2020 and his copies arrived in February this year. “I decided then that I wouldn’t do an official book launch, firstly because it wasn’t going to be sold here, and secondly because it wasn’t advisable because of the pandemic. I wanted to be responsible,” he remembers.

He sent several copies back to San Luis, in Santiago de Cuba, as soon as he got the chance. “I sent them to my family there, to my friends that I grew up with, and to my dad, who was the person who received them all. Every book I sent had a dedication written inside, but I didn’t even have enough copies to give to everyone, unfortunately.” However, this idea became a nightmare for those closest to him.

The book was edited in Portugal given the initial lack of interest that Cuban publishing houses showed.

Problems began when his father’s neighbor took interest in the book when she saw it on his living room table. When he told her that his son was the author, she insisted that he lend it to her. A few days later, police officers showed up at the house and asked him to accompany him down to the station, which he didn’t think too much about in the beginning because he thought it had something to do with his work with school health. “But when he got there, they ambushed him into an office and made him feel bad.”

State Security agents interrogated him and told him that somebody had paid for the book to be published. “To be precise, that dissident groups had paid for my book to be published, as if it were a crime. He was also told that the same people behind Carlos Lage’s book were behind mine and the left him lost, because he had no idea about any of this,” he explained.

State Security assured his father that they were going to get back every copy of the book. Just a day later, they came back to his house to force him to collaborate and write up a list of all the people who had a copy.

“A friend urged him to hand it over because somebody he knew had heard in State Security meetings that if they didn’t, their lives would be made impossible,” he reported. “Bothering old people like my aunts over a children’s book is absurd.”

The author decided to go public about his situation to denounce the injustice. “I can’t give a book I paid for out of my own pocket, which I wrote with all of my effort, to my dearest and it is being confiscated like this. I believe that is illegal.”

Gomez Quevedo believes that the situation in Cuba, with the health and economic or just food shortages problems, are serious enough for the authorities not to go around wasting time chasing after a children’s book. However, it has proven to him that “reality parodies the book, which parodies reality,” he says.

“Maybe, they felt like l was referring to them in the book because there is an evil king who surrounds himself with ghosts who are informers, who are punishers, who stop people from being free in their town.

“They might have felt targeted with the fact that the trees are being demanded to give their fruit every day, when they are only being watered once a month. They might have felt like I was referring to them with the bureaucrats I mention in the story.

“For example, the fairy’s magic dust has been confiscated and she can’t do magic naturally anymore. She can only do magic if she first goes to the office of the Bureaucratic Bureau. They might have felt targeted when a law is approved that states that every being with wings is unable to fly. Perhaps they felt insulted at that.”

Read more from Cuba here on Havana Times.

5 thoughts on “Children’s Book Mobilizes Cuba’s State Security

  • I’m not sure, but I look forward to reading the book someday. What happened to his personal copies is truly 1984 revisted. The state security paranoia level is beyond belief.

  • Circles, you posted a link for ordering this book. How much of the money from sales goes to the author?

  • Horrible dictatorship. Trying to control every aspect of the Cubans. No wonder people are saying ENOUGH!

  • As a novelist I can really relate to this unfortunate situation. We writers pour our souls– not to mention hours and even years of work– into our literary efforts. Often all that work is for naught.

    I hope, Andres, that you managed to save a few copies of your book. It sounds like a very good story and one day, when the evil king has been dispatched and the trees return, those copies will be worth a lot of money.
    Please save one for me, amigo.

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