The Literary Landscape of Cuba
Though we were interested in meeting with Cuban writers and understanding the contemporary literary scene, writing is, as it happens, the least developed of Cuba’s remarkably sophisticated cultural cache.
But books and writing in general suffer from the gatekeeper syndrome: how can you find an audience unless your efforts are correct enough to be acceptable to the retailers who – with the single exception of the tourist store on the Plaza de Armas, which is stocked with Stephen King, Isabel Allende and Dostoevsky, among others – are state-owned? Though some publishers, like that run by the Union of Cuban Artists and Writers (UNEAC), are “non-governmental” and have an independent editorial board consisting of union members, the distinction is moot when books are sold through sanctioned retailers and all media are also controlled by the state. And in a world where the internet is closely regulated (there is a state-wide “intranet” system, but computers are prohibitively expensive for most Cubans), modern options like POD or ebooks are of course nonexistent. As a result, books published in Cuba are of decreasing interest to its inhabitants, with the typical printing running between 1,000 and (occasionally) 5,000. Nor can people go to libraries to find something to read, as these too are government-run, and seem to have few contemporary books or indeed books of any vintage.
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Image Source: Aaron Escobar™