Colección G: Cuban books as a comprehensive cultural event

The Onelio Jorge Cardoso Literary Formation Centre and its Cajachica Publishers propose a new way of making books.

Legna Rodríguez

Foto: Caimán Barbudo

Despite the detractors that the Cuban Onelio Jorge Cardoso Literary Formation Centre could have, by now the renovation it has carried out in the country’s literature in terms of making visible young writers and letting them work is undeniable.

Now, since November 2014, the new collection proposed by its Cajachica Publishers under the name of G, has started to bring out books where the design, edition, back covers and type bring together young specialists from diverse manifestations to publish books that are also a challenge to the tradition that will surely also create their “noise” among conventional or prudish readers.

 

That’s what happened, for example, with “No sabe/No contesta” (Doesn’t Know/Doesn’t Answer), by Legna Rodríguez. According to the director of ColecciónG, the also young critic Gerardo Padilla, the work was nine months in the print shop because some of them there refused to publish a book which they described as “pornographic.”

 

Actually, the book, which comprises 15 short stories, is a tribute to writers admired by the author and about which she felt she owed something and the short story that led to the suspicions referred to the poetry of Charles Bukowsky, who, as is known, cultivated a literature of depravity that Rodríguez parodied taking over his sordid, markedly sexual environments and in which “swear words” proliferate, all this achieved in an evident attempt to “knock out” the receiver.

 

In the presentation of Rodríguez’ book, Padilla complained about the little attention paid outside the island’s borders to the work of the most recent Cuban authors.

 

That, he said, doesn’t happen with other countries where writers under 40 appear as the majority in the catalogues of the large publishing houses. “The Cuban literature that is promoted beyond our borders has remained anchored in authors over 60 years of age,” he said.

 

This ColecciónG, still almost unknown by the public, aims to make the best of the young writers’ literature coincide with the best of the design of young visual artists.

 

Thus, Legna Rodríguez’ book is supported by the avant-garde design and composition of Michelle MiyaresHollande and the back-cover drawing of the already renowned and talented Mabel Poblet.

 

Previous books of Colección G even include painters who do not reside in Cuba and the same will happen with the books that are in the editing process, among them one by talented Osdany Morales with two novelettes collected in one volume under the title of Too Much Information.

 

According to Gilberto Padilla, his purpose as director of Colección G is to publish contemporary Cuban narrative and is expanding to break away from the precariousness of the prevailing way of working of the Cuban publishing houses and is trying to bring together a national literary corpus in which the place where the authors reside is not the most important thing.

 

One has to admit that what began in 1998 as a workshop and later became the Onelio Jorge Cardoso Literary Formation Centre with the backing of the Culture Ministry of Cuba, has surpassed its mission of offering the best of the country’s talents the theoretical and technical knowledge and the practical experience to face the trade of literature with the necessary rigor.

 

Ever since it was created by Eduardo Heras León, IvonneGaleano and Francisco LópezSacha it created suspicion among some who sustained that it was not possible to make “a school of writers” and had doubts about the degree of influence that, from the aesthetic point of view, the institution would supposedly impose.

 

However, life has demonstrated that the most audacious and talented youths who emerge today in Cuban literature come from its classrooms.

 

They are all different and the degree of thematic as well as stylistic freedom is so big that it even scares some, still sitting in the comfortable armchairs of realism and the traditional syntaxes.

 

This new collection by Cajachica will astonish for its daring propositions, from the thematic point of view as well as the production of some books that inside their pages dare to play against all the norms of publishing and design and don’t stop to think about doing whatever they feel like doing.

 

In addition to its publishing house, which also brings out the three-monthly magazine El Cuentero, the Centre convenes the annual César Galeano Award for the graduates and offers five creation grants a year for book projects that later, if their quality merits it, are published by Cajachica.

 

To top it off, the institution offers, together with its course on narrative techniques, one for cinema and television scripts. It also has a computer science room with access to the Internet, a library and a video library.

 

No one should be frightened about young people having their own conception of literature and of books as a comprehensive cultural event. They are writing their own stories and we should all feel happy that the institutionis helping them. With no setbacks or objections. (2016)

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