Prison Diary (II): Book Fair / Angel Santiesteban


UNEAC 50th Anniversary Gala: Esteban Lazo, Abel Prieto, Raul Castro, Miguel Barnet and one other official. Photo EFE/Alejandro Ernesto

Prison Diary II. La Lima Prison.

Book Fair?

In the last days before going to prison, I managed to read several letters from friends who remembered that Book Fair in Havana where we got together and, in addition to sharing the culture, embraced the writers of this island and those who don’t visit us.

“The ’newest’ generation”* was a family that was ready for any call from its members to defend ourselves against bureaucrats, officials and the political police who constantly harassed us like mad dogs for the slightest thing, sometimes just for an expression between a group of intellectuals or for a story reading, or simply because a lot of intellectuals came to your house, and writers like Amir Valle, Jorge Luis Arzola or Daniel Morales can attest to this.

The killed that emotion of our meeting at the Book Fairs, and now it’s nothing more than a space to catch and convict intellectuals without the least scruples, and as if that weren’t enough, like in a gladiator arena, we began to fight among ourselves, but not even for our lives and ideals, as it was in my case, but simply to defend their chance to survive as best as possible. One refusal, and they would start down the path of ostracism, and not everyone was there for them.

And so the members of my generation preferred to emigrate and save their work and their families and find a dignified life where their children wouldn’t suffer what they had to bear because they knew the ordeal that would come down on them from above if they expressed adverse opinions.

In any event, the Book Fair ceased to be a cultural plaza, now it was taken over by the political and military, as happened in the majority of books presented, and for this type of work major editions are planned.

Hence, what I am sure of is that one day those intellectuals who sought shelter elsewhere will be back, and we will develop a generation, already mature, with our opinions, but above all, with the love of culture, art and literature that has always been the great banner of our generation of the children nobody wanted**.

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats

Translator’s notes:

*A post about Angel and his role in “the newest generation” can be read here. Following is an excerpt: By Ernesto Santana Zaldívar. HAVANA, Cuba, June, – In the ’90s, the generation of the Novísimos (the Newest) brought to Cuban literature themes and narrative forms that marked a certain rupture with the previous generations. Angel Santiesteban, born in 1966, became one of the most emblematic creators of this time, not only for the prizes he won, but also for the acceptance he achieved with readers.

**”The Children Nobody Wanted” is the title of a Angel’s book of stories about Angola, and of his blog.

12 March 2013