Cuba’s International Book Fair, due to celebrate its 24th edition, has become one of the island’s most important events, in addition to the Festival of New Latin American Cinema. The Book Fair practically opens the year (February 12-22) while cinema closes it (always in December) with both events attracting thousands of people.
The Book Fair has as its main headquarters the San Carlos de la Cabaña Fort in Havana, but will extend across all the country’s provinces, until its conclusion on April 26 in Santiago de Cuba. It is not an exaggeration therefore to say that it brings together thousands of Cubans, all avid readers.
This year the Fair is dedicated to Dr. Olga Portuondo, National Social Sciences and Humanities Prize winner 2010, and Leonardo Acosta, National Prize for Literature winner 2006, who also received the National Music Prize in 2014. India is the guest Country of Honor.
During a press conference held at the José Martí Cultural Society, in the Havana neighborhood of Vedado, Zuleica Romay, President of the Cuban Book Institute (ICL); Eduardo Fernández, director of the Fair; Juan Rodríguez, editorial vice president; and Edel Morales, vice president of International Relations, provided a few details of what can be expected from the upcoming events.
The honorable Chinthapally Rajasekhar, Indian ambassador to Cuba, participated in the conference and announced that the majority of titles which will be available at the Fair are from contemporary Indian authors.
“It is a great opportunity to introduce past and contemporary Indian literature to the Cuban public, as well as other manifestations of our culture, such as music, dance, yoga and crafts, which will also be present during the event.”
According to directors of the ICL, 22 titles from Indian and Cuban authors will be on sale, who added that the Fair already has 100,000 copies of works by Indian authors.
The diplomat recalled that his country is among the top five nations to publish the most books annually and also has a large film industry. “In India we produce 40,000 films and 20,000 new movies per year.”
In regards to works by Cuban intellectuals which will be included at the Fair, it was reported that 11 titles from among Dr. Olga Portuondo’s - historian, essayist and professor - numerous books will be available; including Santiago de Cuba, desde su fundación hasta la Guerra de los Diez Años (1996); El Cobre: santuario nacional (1997); La catedral primada de Cuba (1997); Una derrota británica en Cuba (2000, Critics Award), y La saga de los Valientes (2003).
From Leonardo Acosta - musician, researcher, journalist and writer - readers will be able to purchase eight titles, some of which have been awarded the Critics Prize: Descarga cubana: el jazz en Cuba 1900-1950 (2000); Otra visión de la música popular cubana (2004) and Alejo en tierra firme: intertextualidad y encuentros fortuitos (2005).
Overall, approximately 3,300,000 copies of 900 titles will be on sale across the country, with 88 foreign exhibitors confirmed to attend.
It was also revealed that the 100th anniversary of the birth of poet Raúl Ferrer - a great promoter of the Cuban literacy campaign - will be celebrated, in addition to the 400th anniversary of the publication of the second edition of Don Quijote de la Mancha, during which important experts on Cervantes will discuss the occasion, as well as the 50 anniversary of the publication of El socialismo y el hombre en Cuba, by Ernesto Che Guevara.
The Fair, as has become customary, will be a fitting moment to present the National Prize for Literature, which was awarded to Eduardo Heras León in the 2014 edition.
The jury panel presided byCésar López, National Prize for Literature winner, 1999, and formed by Luisa Campuzano, Guillermo Rodríguez Rivera, Roberto Méndez and Waldo Leyva, recognized the “quality and transcendence of his short stories and contribution to teaching young writers. The Prize is also a testimony to his legacy in Cuban culture in general, to his literature in particular and the leadership and teaching realized by this leading intellectual in the Onelio Jorge Cardoso Center."
Heras, critic, editor and University of Havana philology and journalism graduate, has been editor-in-chief and editor of the publication Letras Cubanas and director of the editorial Casa de las Américas.
The outstanding National Prize for Literature winner is the author of various books, including, La guerra tuvo seis nombres, Los pasos sobre la hierba, Acero, Cuestión de principio and A fuego limpio.
During the 2013 edition, the most important Cuban literary distinction was awarded to poet Reina María Rodríguez.
Rodríguez (Havana, 1952) has received numerous awards, among them the Julián del Casal Prize, UNEAC, 1980, for Cuando una mujer no duerme; and theCasa de las Américas Prize, 1984 and 1998, for Para un cordero blanco and La foto del invernadero, respectively.
To add to her many recognitions Reina María Rodríguez was awarded the Pablo Neruda Ibero-American Poetry Prize 2014, presented to her by Chilean President, Michele Bachelet. In 2007 another Cuban, Fina García-Marruz, also received the distinction.
Since the creation of the National Prize for Literature in 1983 five other women have warranted the award: Dulce María Loynaz (1987); Fina García-Marruz (1990); Carilda Oliver Labra (1997); Graziella Pogolotti (2005) and Nersys Felipe (2011).