EDICIONES UNIÓN, the publishing house of the Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba (UNEAC), is presenting 20 titles in a range of genres, from novels, poetry collections, essays, short stories, even to children’s literature, at this year’s 27th International Book Fair (running in Havana February 1 through 11).
To find out more about these titles and the selection process for texts by UNEAC members, we interviewed the Director of Ediciones UNIÓN, writer Olga Marta Pérez.
“We are a small publishing house, and the books that are prepared for the Fair are made with the Cuban Book Institute (ICL) within what is called a Special Plan, which are bigger print runs, of between three and five thousand copies. First of all we opt for reprints of books that have been very popular, that have sold out. We have several this year, including one by Ciro Bianchi, Las memorias ocultas de La Habana, and new books by authors that we know the public are looking out for, as is the case of Pedro Juan Gutiérrez, whose novel Fabián y el caos we are presenting. We have another, an essay, El Gallo de Morón, by an author from Ciego de Ávila, Larry Morales, who always arouses interest. This has a Cuban, and also a Spanish history, and has become part of Cuban sayings (in reference to the title). It’s a legend with a literature behind it. The research is more complete here. I also mention a text of interviews, Cómo Cuba puso a bailar al mundo,by Juan Carlos Roque, about the Buena Vista Social Club, that we know will be enjoyed.”
Can you explain more about what the Special Plan is?
Each Cuban publishing house, whether belonging to the ICL or not, as is the case of our Ediciones UNIÓN, which belongs to UNEAC, a non-governmental organization, presents a proposal to the ICL with books that we think will be of interest. Books that aren’t going to sell are not going to be produced, because the Cuban government subsidizes the book to maintain affordable prices for the population.
What about unpublished works?
We make an annual plan by author, by theme, and through UNEAC awards, such as the David Prize for Poetry, and the Vidal Prize from Las Tunas, which is for narrative. Members submit their original books, which are evaluated and they are taken to the advisory council which provides the final approval. Here we also take into account, and we can not ignore, the order of importance, because this is a small publishing house, it can not publish all the writer members, it is not only a problem of financing, but also of technology. We also have a quota to take to print, not everything that we want to.
UNIÓN is presenting several genres at the Fair?
It’s logical because we have diverse writers in UNEAC, of children’s literature, literary essays, some cases of history, poetry, short stories, novels. It is a way of responding in part to what is being written in the country. It was Alejo Carpentier who said it, that UNIÓN should publish the thriving literature of the nation.
In total, you are bringing 20 titles to this Fair?
I can reveal to you the titles. In the chronicle genre, La memoria oculta de la Habana by Ciro Bianchi; two short story books, Agua dura by Mylene Fernández and Crimen sin castigo by Rebeca Murga; four novels, La soledad del tiempo, by Alberto Guerra, La Tenista Rusa, by Antonio Carballo, Fabián y el caos, by Pedro Juan Gutierrez, and El paraíso de Jesús Arcángel, by Luis Cabrera; there are also five in poetry, Obra poética by Alberto Rodríguez Tosca, Vida y muerte, by Domingo Alfonso, Poesía Completa de José María Heredia, Historia Clínica, by Grisel Echavarría (David Prize for Poetry winner) and Las puertas del bosque, by Bárbara Yera Leon; four books of essays, De la letra a la esencia: Mirtha Aguirre y el barroco literario, by Frank Padrón, Con hambre y sin dinero, by Ena Lucía Portela, El Gallo de Morón, by Larry Morales and Las palabras y los días, by Beatriz Maggi; and the interview, Cómo Cuba puso a bailar al mundo. Veinte años del Buena Vista Social Club, by Juan Carlos Roque.
What about children’s literature?
We want to present four books, we’ll see if they make it out of the printing press in time, from the Dientes de leche collection: Amor electrónico, by José Raúl Fraguela, La huella del gigante, by Niurki Pérez García, and La bisabuela Maita, by Loreley Rabull. The fourth title is La misteriosa desaparición, by Spaniard María Luz Pontón.
And your own books?
I hope they make it, for Editorial Abril El sol cuadrado, an illustrated album, and La maga y la luna. Gente Nueva has edited my book Ellos se juntan, a personal selection of different stories that have appeared in anthologies and others to complete the book. That’s why it’s called Ellos se juntan (They get together). Ediciones Selvi of Spain prepared another book of my character La Maga, which is called El peine que regresa, and a small book,El sueño de la oruga, eight poems for children with illustrations by Iris Fundora. My editorial training helps me a lot when it comes to putting together a book, which entails its own dramaturgy, an internal rhythm.
Precisely regarding your work as an editor and writer, what is your view in terms of physical versus digital books?
To begin with, it’s a disorderly competition. In the case of new technologies with new material culture, everything will find its place. It was thought that the cell phone would eliminate the landline, but now they coexist, they adjust. When email emerged, it was thought that letters would disappear, but no, because it is important to touch paper. Human material life is enriched as time goes by, some things fall into disuse, but I don’t believe books will. The chaotic competition that exists today between the entire audiovisual universe and the book will reach an understanding. Look, the e-book runs out of batteries, doesn’t it? But the book is always ready, you put it in your bag and that’s it. It doesn’t need to be charged. Everything takes its path. But books must be produced.
Publishing that “thriving literature” of the nation is the daily work of Ediciones UNIÓN, as we will be able to appreciate in this 27th edition of Cuba’s International Book Fair.