'Cuba one of world’s most literary countries'

01 Nov 2012

Cubans enjoy one of the richest and most deeply embedded literary cultures in the world, according to researchers at the Universities of Manchester and Nottingham.

Havannah Fair book queue
Havannah Fair book queue

Interviews by Manchester’s Dr Parvathi Kumaraswami and Nottingham’s Professor Antoni Kapcia with over 100 Cuban writers and editors challenge the image of the Socialist country portrayed in the West, in a new book out this month.

Literary culture in Cuba:  Revolution, nation-building and the book -  published by Manchester University Press, throws a literary spotlight on the country which according to the United Nations has one of the highest literacy rate in the world.

According to the researchers, the richness  of Cuba’s tradition is typified by the Havana Book Fair held each year in the capital and then across the country.

As part of their Leverhulme Trust funded research, the team interviewed internationally best selling author Leonardo Padura Fuentes, who wrote an acclaimed  quartet of detective novels featuring lieutenant Mario Conde.

Also among the interviewees was Pedro Juan Gutiérrez, who wrote the Dirty Havana Trilogy winner of Spain's Alfonso Garcia Ramos Prize in 2000.

Dr Parvathi Kumaraswami, who is based at the School of Arts, Languages and Cultures, said: “In terms of its literary culture, Cuba is in another league from other developing world countries - and is probably stronger than most of the developed world as well.

“The Cuban authorities have valued this part of their culture ever since the revolution in 1959.
“Havana Book Fair, for example, is unique across the world: around 5 million books are bought at the festival which is attended by about 5 million people.
“It shows how literature and culture are deeply embedded into Cuban culture:  within every neighbourhood there’s a writing workshop and a ‘Casa de Cultura’.

“I think the Cuban model is something we should be emulating in the West: It makes us question the effectiveness of David Cameron’s Big Society and shows that culture can bring people together in times of economic hardship.”
She added: “Contrary to what you might expect in the West-  there is also a strong tradition of openness within Cuban literary culture.
“Internationally best selling authors  such as Leonardo Padura Fuentes and Pedro Juan Gutiérrez see it as their revolutionary role to critique the authorities.
“Literature has a special place in the Cuban system, unlike the press which is much more guarded.”

Notes for editors

Dr Kumaraswami is available for interview

For media enquires contact:
Mike Addelman
Press Officer
Faculty of Humanities
The University of Manchester
0161 275 0790
07717 881567