Travel to Cuba in the company of its finest writers and gain an understanding of its remarkable mystique. The twenty-one stories in this collection—some of which appear in English for the first time—will take you on an odyssey through the country’s rich past to its dynamic present, where it is poised at the brink of immense change. Arranged by the areas of Cuba they illuminate, these stories offer up a rich literary banquet.

Ann Louise Bardach is the author of the forthcoming book Cuba Confidential (Random House). She has written extensively about Cuba for the New York Times, Talk, Vanity Fair, Condé Nast Traveler, the New Republic, the Washington Post, and other publications.

If our political establishment knew a tenth as much about Cuba, or cared half as much about it, as does Ann Louise Bardach, both the United States and Cuba would be more open societies.

Christopher Hitchens

The eighth in this engaging international series offers 22 short stories and excerpts from longer works (several previously unavailable in English). . . . The stories are generally superior–notably Lino Novás Calvo’s thriller-like “The Dark Night of Ramón Yendia,” Ana Menéndez’s plaintive “Her Mother’s House,” and the ultimate assimilation story: “We Came All the Way from Cuba So You Could Dress Like This?,” by Achy Obejas (a witty, serious farce that’s every bit as good as its title). On balance, a worthy addition to a splendid series.

Kirkus Reviews

From hallucinatory riffs on sexuality and getting by in decaying communist towns, to wistful memoirs of shaded patios gone forever, Cuba is a generous tasting of literary offerings from all parts the island. While reissuing some classics by legendary Cuban writers, Cuba also serves the vital purpose of introducing readers to the next wave of Cuban authors, ones whose take on life in one of the world’s last communist states is far different than their forebears. . . . Cuba is ingeniously divided by region, with writers from each province adding local seasonings to the mix. . . . As a travel guide, Cuba is a leisurely tour of a literary nation beyond the reach of propaganda machines and travel bans. The translations are clean and precise, the thematic variety of narratives, genders, and dilemmas wide enough to illuminate that mystery known as Cuba. Cuba is a small island, but it makes its presence known in America far more widely and loudly than its size would warrant. Guided by some of the liveliest writing being produced anywhere today, Cuba is an excellent, compact tour of the mythic Cuba, a place where literature means something.

St. Petersburg Times

  • Havana
    • Richard Blanco, Havanasis
    • Senel Paz, Strawberry and Chocolate
    • José Lezama Lima, Paradiso
    • Antonio José Ponte, In the Cold of the Malecón
    • Pedro Juan Gutiérrez, Life on the Rooftops
    • Calvert Casey, My Aunt Leocadia, Love, and the Lower Paleolithic
    • Josefina de Diego, Internal Monologue on a Corner in Havana
    • Zoé Valdés, My Heroic Birth
    • Lino Novás Calvo, The Dark Night of Ramón Yendía
    • Leonardo Padura Fuentes, Máscaras
    • Abilio Estévez, Thine Is the Kingdom
    • Mayra Montero, The Messenger
  • Playas del este
    • Cristina Garcia, Ocean Blue
  • Matanzas Province
    • María Eugenia Alegría Nuñez, The Girl Typist Who Worked for a Provincial Ministry of Culture
    • Pablo Medina, Zapata
    • Ana Menéndez, Her Mother’s House
  • El Campo
    • Alfonso Hernández Catá, Don Cayetano, the Unreliable
  • Trinidad
    • Uva de Aragón, Not the Truth, Not a Lie
  • Holguín
    • Reinaldo Arenas, Old Rosa
  • Guantánamo
    • Ernesto Mestre, The Lazarus Rumba
  • Life, Exile, and Death
    • Luis Aguilar León, The Prophet
    • Achy Obejas, We Came All the Way from Cuba So You Could Dress Like This?
  • Luis Aguilar León (1925– ) was born and raised in Oriente, Cuba. He attended the Jesuit-run Dolores grade school with Fidel Castro. A professor of Cuban history, he has taught at Oriente University, Columbia, Cornell, and Georgetown and has written several books of both essays and fiction. He defines himself as a “skeptical humanist.”
  • María Eugenia Alegría Nuñez (1953– ) is a critic and translator, and has published a collection of short stories in Cuba. She is a member of the editorial collective Vigía, based in Matanzas, and lives in Varadero.
  • Uva de Aragón (1944– ) came to the United States in 1959. She has written nine books including two short story collections, poetry, essays, and Alfonso Hernández Catá: Un escritor cubano, salmantino y universal (1996), a critical essay on the Cuban novelist and short-story writer who was her maternal grandfather. Uva de Aragón is Associate Director of the Cuban Research Institute at Florida International University and Associate Editor of Cuban Studies, an academic journal. She writes a weekly column for Diario las Américas.
  • Reinaldo Arenas (1943–1990) came from an impoverished and uneducated family from Holguín, Cuba. He studied at the University of Havana and was later mentored by José Lezama Lima. After a protracted period where he was ostracized and imprisoned, he fled with the 1980 Mariel exodus. In the United States he cofounded and edited the cultural magazine Mariel (1983–1985). Arenas authored seven novels, five novelas, collections of short stories, essays, experimental theater pieces, and poetry. Dying of AIDS, he took his own life in 1990. His posthumously published memoir, Before Night Falls, was made into a film in 2000.
  • Richard Blanco (1960– ) was made in Cuba, assembled in Spain, and imported to the United States, he says, meaning that his seven-month pregnant mother and the rest of the family arrived as exiles from Cienfuegos, Cuba, to Madrid, where he was born, then moved to the States. His work has appeared in The Nation, Indiana Review, Michigan Quarterly, and Tri-quarterly Review.
  • Lino Novás Calvo (1905–1983) was born in Spain and came to Cuba with his family in 1912. He worked as a caterer from a young age to support himself and later moved on to journalism. As a foreign correspondent he covered the Spanish Civil War from 1931 to 1936. On his return to Havana, he taught French and continued to write short stories and translated Hemingway, Faulkner, Huxley, and others into Spanish. In 1942 he won the Hernández Catá Prize for the story Un dedo encima. In 1960 he sought asylum in the Colombian Embassy. In exile, he taught at the University of Syracuse and continued to write until his death.
  • Calvert Casey (1924–1969) was the son of an American father and Cuban mother, who had moved to Cuba as a teenager. One of his first short stories, El Paseo, published in the New Mexico Quarterly, won a prize from Doubleday. With the advent of the Revolution, he joined the new wave of writers and intellectuals and wrote for several publications, including reviews for the celebrated Lunes de revolución. His anthology of short stories, El Regreso (Barcelona, 1962) was followed by Memorias de una isla, a collection of articles on Cuban culture. He left Cuba in 1966. Three years later, he committed suicide in Rome.
  • Alfonso Hernández Catá (1885–1940) belonged to the first generation of Cuban writers and was a master of every literary genre. Considered one of the fathers of Cuba’s short story, his stories follow the tradition of Poe and Maupassant and are known for their psychological insights and modernist style. He is known for his treatment and foresight in such themes as racism (La Piel, 1923), homosexuality (El Angel de sodoma, 1929), and dictatorship (Un Cementerio en la Antillas, 1933). Hernández Catá also served as Cuba’s ambassador to Brazil where he died in an airplane crash.
  • Josefina de Diego (1951– ) was born into a Cuban literary family; her father was the noted writer Eliseo Diego. She lives in Havana where she is an economist by profession. Her first book of stories, Grandfather’s Kingdom, was published in Mexico in 1993.
  • Abilio Estévez (1954– ) was born in Havana, where he still resides. He was mentored by the Cuban master Virgilio Piñera and has written several plays, including the award-winning Night; a collection of poems, Manuel of Temptations; a volume of short stories, Game with Gloria; and essays.
  • Leonardo Padura Fuentes (1955– ) is an essayist, journalist, and novelist. He has written a quartet of detective novels, of which Máscaras, excerpted here, is the third. All of the novels are set in Havana and revolve around the travails of detective Lt. Mario Conde. He won the 1993 Premio UNEAC for his novel Vientos de Cuaresma. He lives in Havana.
  • Cristina Garcia (1958– ) was born in Havana, Cuba, and grew up in New York City. She attended Barnard College and Johns Hopkins University, and worked as a correspondent for Time magazine. She has published two widely acclaimed novels, Dreaming in Cuban and The Agüero Sisters. Her third novel, Monkey Hunting, is forthcoming.
  • Pedro Juan Gutiérrez (1950– ) began working life at the age of eleven as an ice cream vendor and newsboy. Formerly a journalist, he lives in Havana, devoting himself to writing and painting. The author of several volumes of poetry, Gutiérrez’s first novel was El Rey de la Habana.
  • José Lezama Lima (1910–1976) is regarded as one of Cuba’s foremost writers, best known for his Proustian masterpiece, Paradiso (1966). He is also the author of short stories, essays, poetry, and translations of French literature. With José Rodríguez Feo, he created the Cuban literary journal Origenes, which published and celebrated the work of the most original writers and artists in Cuba. After graduating law school, he worked at the Ministry of Culture from 1945 to 1950. After the Revolution, he was gradually sidelined because of his homosexuality and the eroticism of his work. Today, however, he is widely celebrated as Cuba’s foremost modern writer and his Vedado home has been restored as a museum.
  • Pablo Medina (1948– ) was born in Cuba and came to the United States with his family as a child. A graduate in English and Spanish literature from Georgetown University, Medina is the author of three published collections of poetry, Pork Rind and Cuban Songs (1975), Arching into the Afterlife (1991), and The Floating Island (1999); two novels, Marks of Birth (1994), The Return of Felix Nogara (2000); and a memoir, Exiled Memories: A Cuban Childhood (1990).
  • Ana Menéndez (1970– ) was born in Los Angeles to exiled parents and later moved to Miami. She is the author of a collection of short stories entitled In Cuba I Was a German Shepherd. As a reporter, she worked for the Orange County Register and the Miami Herald.
  • Ernesto Mestre (1964– ) was born in Guantanamo, Cuba, and left for Madrid in 1972 with his family and soon after settled in Miami. He graduated from Tulane University and taught at Sarah Lawrence College. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.
  • Mayra Montero (1952– ) was born in Havana and now lives in Puerto Rico. She has written four highly acclaimed novels and a collection of stories in Spanish. Her two most recent novels, In The Palm of Darkness and The Messenger, have appeared in English translation, along with an earlier novel, The Last Night I Spent with You.
  • Achy Obejas (1956– ) came to the United States at the age of six and now lives in Chicago where she is a columnist at the Chicago Tribune. She is the author of two novels, Days of Awe (Ballantine, 2001) and Memory Mambo (1996), and has published her poetry in various American magazines.
  • Senel Paz (1950– ) grew up in the countryside of Las Villas, Cuba. On a scholarship after the Revolution, he was sent to Havana to pursue his education where he graduated with distinction. He was mentored by the writer, Eduardo Heras León, who was later accused of writing antirevolutionary stories. His novella, The Wolf, the Woods and the New Man, won the Juan Rulfo Prize awarded by Radio France International in 1990, and was adapted by Paz into the screenplay for the Academy Award–nominated film Strawberry and Chocolate, directed by the late Tomas Gutiérrez Alea. He lives in Havana.
  • Antonio José Ponte (1964– ) was born in 1964 in Matanzas, Cuba. In 1980, he moved to Havana, where he attended and graduated from the University of Havana. After five years working as an engineer in rural eastern Cuba, he became a screenwriter and filmmaker, before moving into literature. Ponte has published three books of poetry, essays, novels, and short stories.
  • Zoé Valdés (1959– ) was born in Havana. She is a poet, novelist, and short-story writer. She worked for years at the Cuban Film Institute and was later a member of the Cuban delegation at UNESCO in Paris, where she now lives with her daughter. Her novel La Nada Cotidiana was a finalist for the 1996 Planeta Prize in Spain, and was published in the United States as Yocandra in the Paradise of Nada. She is also the author of I Gave You All I Had, published by Arcade.
  • Peter Bush is the director of the British Centre for Literary Translation and vice president of the International Federation of Translators. He is editor of the translation journal In Other Words. He has translated novels and other works by a wide variety of writers. He won the 1994 ALTA Outstanding Literary Translation Award for his translation of The Old Man Who Read Love Stories by Luis Sepulveda and the 1997 Cervantes Institute’s Ramon Valle-Inclan Prize for Literary Translation for his translation of Juan Goytisolo’s The Marx Family Saga.
  • Sabina Cienfuegos
  • Dick Cluster is the author of the novels Return to Sender, Repulse Monkey, and Obligations of the Bone, and has translated a variety of Cuban writers including Aida Bahr, Alejandro Hernández Díaz, Pedro de Jesús, Antonio José Ponte, Abel Prieto, and Mirta Yáñez.
  • Lisa Davis’s fiction and nonfiction have appeared in The Persistent Desire: A Femme-Butch Reader, Sister & Brother: Lesbians and Gay Men Write About Their Lives Together, Queer View Mirror 2, New York Sex, and Early Embraces II. She has taught in the State and City University systems of New York, and frequently publishes translations from Spanish—most recently in the Vintage Book of International Lesbian Fiction.
  • Cola Franzen lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts and concentrates on translating the creative work of Alicia Borinsky, Saúl Yurkievich, and Juan Cameron. She has also translated works by Claudio Guillén, and Guillermo Núñez. She is a member and past secretary-treasurer of ALTA (American Literary Translators Association) and vice-president of Language Research, Inc., founded by I.A. Richards, with headquarters in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
  • David Frye teaches about Latin America at the University of Michigan. He is the author of Indians into Mexicans: History and Identity in a Mexican Town and has translated several books into English. He recently received a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship to translate El Periquillo Sarniento (The Mangy Parrot), written in 1816 by José Joaquín Fernández de Lizardi.
  • Edith Grossman is a leading translator of Spanish language fiction and poetry. With over twenty published volumes, she has translated, among others, Gabriel García Márquez, Mario Vargas Llosa, Alvaro Mutis, and Ariel Dorfman.
  • John H. R. Polt is Professor Emeritus of Spanish Literature at the University of California, Berkeley and has translated several Spanish and Spanish American authors.
  • Barbara Paschke
  • Gregory Rabassa’s brilliant translations have brought more than forty Spanish and Portuguese novels to the English-speaking world. García Márquez once said that he was “the best Latin American writer in the English language.” He is currently a distinguished professor of Comparative Literature at the City University of New York.
  • Raymond Sayers
  • Ann Tashi Slater
  • Andrew Hurley
  • Natasha Wimmer is the literary editor of The American Scholar and a contributing editor at Publishers Weekly. Her translation of Mario Vargas Llosa’s Letters to a Young Novelist is forthcoming from Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

CUBA, edited by Ann Louise Bardach, ISBN # 9781883513115

Excerpts to come.

Posted on 24 February 2010

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