A report from Brookline’s Wicked Local.
Celebrated Cuban novelist Leonardo Padura is coming to Boston for a week-long festival of special events Oct. 10-17 including readings, film showings, and public conversations designed to mark his achievements in contemporary Cuban culture. Events begin with a reading and book signing at the Coolidge Corner Library on Tuesday, October 10, at 6:30 pm.
The Brookline Booksmith will be bringing copies of Padura’s latest novel, Heretics, as well as selections from his popular series of detective novels and his longer historical novels. Along with the Brookline Public Library and the Booksmith, the event is being co-sponsored by the July 26 Boston-Cuba Solidarity Coalition and Brookline PAX. Brookline Poet Laureate Zvi Sesling will introduce the author.
Leonardo Padura Fuentes — journalist, cultural critic, and filmmaker as well as novelist — has gained wide attention in Cuba and throughout the world primarily through his noir detective stories. As a young critic, he wrote of the popular genre: “The Cuban detective novel of the ’70s was apologist, schematic, permeated with ideas of a socialist realism that was all socialist but very little realist.” His novels featuring detective Mario Conde transformed the genre; their popularity is reflected and bolstered by the films that have been made of the first four. The “Four Seasons in Havana” is available on Netflix, and they’re scheduled to be made into an English language series starring Antonio Banderas.
Padura’s writing in general is deeply involved with Cuban history and politics. The Man Who Loved Dogs is an extended treatment of three intersecting stories: the last decades in the life of Leon Trotsky, the life of his assassin Ramon Mercader, and the tale of the Cuban novelist who discovers Mercader living out his last years in Havana after prison. Heretics is a sweeping 500+ page historical novel, of art theft, anti-Semitism and Jewish identity, and contemporary Cuba that begins in 1939 with the Saint Louis sailing from Hamburg into Havana with hundreds of Jewish refugees seeking asylum.
All of Padura’s writing is critical and often at the edge of controversy. Disheveled noir heroes exposing a Cuban underworld in all its seediness are not everyone’s ideal. That Cubans had limited familiarity with Trotsky, certainly none as a hero before this — or with the state-dependency and oversight of writers and the immense stress it presents — what makes these and other substantial criticisms of Cuba especially intriguing state of affairs is the fact that Padura is Cuba’s official and most celebrated writer. Albeit critical, Padura lives in Cuba and writes as a patriot.
The current trip is occasioned by Padura’s receipt of the Avellaneda Prize from the Cuban Cultural Center of New York — La Avellaneda Medal is the Center’s most prestigious literary award — and “presentations of books and films in NY and Boston.”
The festival concludes with a joint July26.org Boston-Cuba solidarity coalition program with Witness for Peace’s tour of Cuban poet and popular educator Marcel Lueiro Reyes on October 17. Public events will be moderated discussions, some with panels, with audience participation, including film showings with Q&A sessions. The week-long series take places primarily at Northeastern and Boston University. Feature films include an expanded version of “Vientos de La Habana/Winds of Havana,” the first in the Mario Conde quartet and the U.S. premiere of the English-subtitled “Regreso a Itaca/Return to Ithaca” for which Leonardo wrote the screenplay about a generation gathering for a rooftop dinner in Havana and to make sense of the past and present.
See https://july26.org/october-2017-leonardo-padura-festival/ for the full schedule and venues and more on Padura.