Friday, March 06, 2009

Top ten Cuban novels

Leonardo Padura, author of short-story collections and literary essays yet best known for his Havana Quartet of novels featuring Inspector Mario Conde, named his top 10 Cuban novels for the Guardian.

His preface:
Cuba is a country of poets. It would almost be too easy to select 10 poets or books of poetry that play a key role in the short history of Cuban literature. But there are excellent – and diverse – Cuban novelists, too few of whom are available in English translation. The 10 I've picked here will hopefully give some idea of both the country's literary tradition, and its imaginative life.
One title on his list:
The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love (1989), Óscar Hijuelos

Hijuelos was born in Cuba but has lived in the United States from childhood and wrote this Pulitzer-prize winning work in English. Significantly, it is a novel created from all the stereotypical features that have gone into the construction of the image of Cubans for foreigners: their music, dancing, passion as lovers and romantic, rebellious spirit. Although there are more important novels written in Cuba from a literary point of view, the great international success of The Mambo Kings and its nostalgic portrait of a Cuba that is more dream than reality, make it a necessary player in the field of the Cuban novel.
Read about Number One on Padura's list.

--Marshal Zeringue