Leonardo Padura's top 10 Cuban novels
Hemingway and Hijuelos are here, but the author of the Havana Quartet also looks beyond the Cuba we think we know to introduce some of the island's more hidden literary treasures
Wednesday March 4 2009
Leonardo Padura was born in 1955 in Havana and lives in Cuba. He has published a number of short-story collections and literary essays but international fame came with the Havana Quartet, all featuring Inspector Mario Conde. Like many others of his generation, Padura had faced the question of leaving Cuba, particularly in the late 80s and early 90s, when living conditions deteriorated sharply as Russian aid evaporated. He chose to stay.
The 10 I've picked here will hopefully give some idea of both the country's literary tradition, and its imaginative life.
1. Explosion in a Cathedral (El siglo de las luces) by Alejo Carpentier (1962, trans. John Sturrock)
2. Cecilia Valdes Or El Angel Hill (Cecilia Valdes) by Cirilo Villaverde (1882, trans. Helen Lane)
3. Three Trapped Tigers (Tres tristes tigres) by Guillermo Cabrera Infante (1967, trans. Suzanne Jill Levine & Donald Gardner)
4. Paradiso by Jose Lezama Lima (1974, trans. Gregory Rabassa)
5. The Lost Steps (Los pasos perdidos) by Alejo Carpentier (1953, trans. Harriet de On?s)
6. The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway (1952)
7. Temporada de ?ngeles (1983), Lisandro Otero; A Season For Angels, not translated.
8. The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love (1989), Oscar Hijuelos
9. Antes que anochezca (1990), Reinaldo Arenas; Before Night Falls, trans. Dolores M. Koch (1993)
10. El negrero (1933), Lino Nov?s Calvo; The Slave-trader, not translated