Leonardo Padura at the 2016 International Book Fair

A curious anthology of short stories that includes the prize-winning writer is presented at the 25th Havana International Book Fair.

Despite being one (or the most) demanded of the living Cuban authors by the reading public of his country and of other parts of the world, Leonardo Padura is only present in the 25th Havana International Book Fair 2016 with two short stories.

These stories, with a time difference of 30 years, belong to the anthology Hacer y deshacer el amor (Making and Lack of Love), selected and prologuized by Alex Fleites and published by the Unión publishing house, whose catalogue fortunately includes the author’s The Man Who Loved Dogs.

 

This curious compilation brings together seven Cuban contemporary narrators who in the 1980s appeared in a collection that, under the title Hacer el amor (Making Love)  saw the light in Cuba as one of the first titles of the then recently created Abril publishing house.

 

Alex Fleites also compiled the book and, 30 years later, handed over to the University of Veracruz a new selection that, called Deshacer el amor (Lack of Love), brought together the same narrators as its predecessor, but this time he decided that the short stories would be about the “lack of love.”

 

“I was interested in exploring how their thematic universe had widened (that is, that of the writers), closer to the immediate experience in the first title and also presenting how each one of them had grown in the management of their trade, which has led them to become names of obliged reference in the panorama of our literature,” says Fleites.

 

The writers in question are Francisco LópezSacha, Arturo Arango, Reinaldo Montero, Leonardo Padura, Miguel Mejides, Luis Manuel García Méndez and Senel Paz.

 

They are all present in the book comprising texts from the 1980s and the present day, a result of the merging of the two anthologies that now becomes one.

 

In his prologue, Fleites specifies that he has respected the original order, so that the first story by each author corresponds to Hacer el amor, and the second to Deshacer el amor.

 

He adds that the anarchic answers that each one of them gave to a single questionnaire which he thought it pertinent to submit them toare included in the anthology.

 

In addition to these answers the stories are preceded by specifications and a current photo of each one of the writers while the back cover features the photo of the entire group taken in the 1980s by photographer Ramón Estupiñán.

 

In the specific case of Leonardo Padura the reader will find the short stories “Sin emoción” and “Nuevenoches con Amada Luna,” the latter written in July 2001.

 

In response to Fleites’ questionnaire, Padura confesses that what he most remembers about the year in which the first anthology was published “is that on September 30 I boarded a Cubana de Aviación plane for my first trip abroad. On October 1 I landed in Luanda and from the airport I (we) were taken directly to a camp for 21 days of military training.”

 

Further on he recalls that “Lucía, my girlfriend of seven years (we were so young! Now we have been together for 36 years) had stayed behind in Cuba and one of the most terrible things that could happen to me was to wake up in the morning in Luanda and not being able to remember her face.”

 

When evaluating the 30 years since he wrote “Sin emoción” until now, he said: “I believe that in my personal life, professional as well as in love, I have been a fortunate man. I continue being in love with the same woman I loved in 1985, and she continues putting up with me.”

 

He confesses that love and his life with Lucía have been one of the keys to his having been able to enjoy what he has had, since she is not only the calm comrade in the intimate but also the great comrade in intellectual work and in the material.

 

“She has been the stability that has allowed me to do many things and overcome many fears,” he says.

 

For Padura’s readers it will be of great interest to see the extraordinary leap of this writer between his first stories and the latest.

 

Though “Sin emoción” is a decorous short story that already outlines the social concerns and contradictions with the environment that would characterise the author’s entire work in the 1990s, it is undeniable that in “Nuevenoches con Amada Luna” the prose and dramatic writing are notably perfected.

 

The 2001 short story shows us a narrator absolutely under control of his resources, with a precision of language and a surprising and efficient use of the adjectives which are a bit hesitant in “Sin emoción.”

 

The same happens with the six remaining narrators of the anthology Hacer y deshacer el amor. This book can thus serve as a testimony of the loyalty between Padura and the other authors who share with him these pages: testimonies of the matureness achieved and the road travelled and perhaps the road they still have to travel. (2016)

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