Wednesday, September 13, 2006

On writing in Cuba

I have previously blogged about a Cuban writer called Leonardo Padura.

He is the author of a series of detective novels set in Havana featuring Mario Conde, who used to be a police officer but now, some 20 years after the setting for the first novel, makes a living selling rare second hand books to tourists – for American dollars.

Padura still lives in Cuba, appears to be tolerated by the regime and is occasionally interviewed by the local media, which is government-controlled. And yet his books – some of which have been translated into English - are much better known outside the island. Not surprisingly, since they paint a picture of a city far, far removed from those government-sanctioned tourist postcards.

His latest novel, titled La Neblina del Ayer, recently won the Premio Hammett, an award of the International Association of Crime Writers.

Now, the British daily The Guardian has an extensive interview with Padura about his books – and about his experiences as a journalist and writer under the Castro regime’s historically strict censorship rules. How does he get away with it?

You can read the whole thing here, but I wanted to share with you something Padura said during the interview in Havana regarding that ambivalence that is so much part and parcel of the great Cuban diaspora.

“Sometimes, like almost all Cubans, I would like to be far away,” he tells the interviewer. “But sometimes, when I am far away, like almost all Cubans, I would like to go back".


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