Karla Suárez and Her Novel “Havana, Year Zero”

karlasuarez20We recently announced that Cuban writer Karla Suárez won the first prize for the Prix Carbet de la Caraïbe et du Tout-Monde for her novel Habana, año cero (Editorial Quetzal), which was published in France as La Havane, année zéro (Métailié). [See previous post: Karla Suárez, Winner of the 2012 Prix Carbet de la Caraïbe et du Tout-Monde.] Here is a [rough] translation of the jury’s declaration of their choice for the 2012 award:

Declaration of the Jury

The work that the jury of Prix Carbet de la Caraïbe et du Tout-Monde has decided to honor this year is situated along the line of creations stemming from a strong desire: to restore a rightful place to countries we often forget in the disharmonious concert of the world. Countries of limbos, countries of margins, but which are not less significant, countries that stand out by virtue of their very valuable human resonance, with a living heart, a beating heart.

Our choice reflects a spirit of loyalty to the writer who was for many years the chairman of the jury, Mr. Édouard Glissant; but it also constitutes a sign of homage to an example of strength, endurance, lucidity, the gift of the joy and pain of life brought to their brightest radiance. This novel traces a personal story interlaced in the dense thickness of this new history that arises today from the meeting and the oppositions of all the histories and the stories of the world.

This work comes to us from Cuba. Cuba, once again. Cuba, the country of José Marti, of Alejo Carpentier, of Nancy Morejon, of Leonardo Padura, and of so many others.

The Cuba of all perseverances, offset from the main currents of the world, the storms and tumults of globalizations. The Cuba that in this novel becomes the paradoxical matrix of a determining invention: the telegraph and telephone—in a country that today is experiencing its own modernity speckled by regular breaks, power breaks and phone service outages. A Cuba, therefore, of all paradoxes.

In the archipelago in the world, this island seems isolated, but here it is: works of art and artistic emergence show the infinite number of ties that connect it—like indivisible threads, like feeding lines—to the same world that ostracizes it.


WHEREAS in simple language, shareable speech, lively writing, the novelist has been able to follow the threads of these stories to explore the peculiarities of the Cuban stance, the lived experiences of these stunning beings that have remained on their island as if at the heart of destiny;

WHEREAS she has mobilized a very unique talent where emotion and lyricism are bound by an enormous sense of reserve, but are discreetly exposed in the representation of these singular lives, the narration of ambiguous and complex existences, and the barely traced melancholy of long-kept illusions;

WHEREAS the novelist has excelled in the art of representing her country in the full light of recognition, in a moment when the consciences of the Centers and their proud blindness, have, paradoxically, never been as exacerbated;

WHEREAS she has known, from beginning to end, how to keep [the readers] in suspense, how to surprise and amaze, in the maze of relationships, intimate experiences, urban neighborhoods, and the forgotten times of histories that coalesce;

WHEREAS, at every bound and every turn, the burning formula of Cuban resourcefulness, standing against oppressive economic models, is revealed as joyful, lively, and always triumphant;

WHEREAS the writer has made us enter the powerful body of the mind, the intelligence of the men and women of Cuba: inventors, doctors, explorers, artists, poets, and creators, all of which renew the poetic material of existence itself, impressing it on us like a grace, a cardinal virtue, which—under quarantines, under embargoes—stimulates the Cuban soul, turning it into a source of rejuvenation and hope facing the old-continents;

Thus, the jury unanimously awards the Carbet Prize [Prix Carbet de la Caraïbe et du Tout-monde] of 2012 to Ms. Karla Suárez for her novel Havana, Year Zero.

Tunisia, December 14, 2012

For original declaration (in French), see http://www.tout-monde.com/prixcarbet2012.html

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