More than 2 million Cubans attended Book Fair 2012

Seven publishing houses that make up the Cuban Book Institute and another 24 such entities from all over the country made their contribution to the fair dedicated to renowned Cuban intellectuals Zoila Lapique and Ambrosio Fornet, and to the cultures of the so called Grand Caribbean.

Along with editorial novelties, book presentations, readings, colloquiums, theater plays, concerts and other activities were attended by readers all over Cuba, which also commemorated the centennial of Cuban playwright Virgilio Piñera.

The International Book Fair Cuba 2013 will be dedicated to the 160th anniversary of the birth of Cuban National Hero José Martí and to National Social Sciences and History Award winner Pedro Pablo Rodríguez and National Literature Award Laureate Daniel Chavarría. Next year's cultural gathering will also pay homage to the cultures of the People's Republic of Angola.

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Further report on the Book Fair: Mosaic of books, authors and readers

FEBRUARY in Havana was transformed into a celebration for authors and readers. The Book Fair is eagerly awaited and shared. As Spanish-Italian writer Carlos Frabetti said, "It is marvelous to see children with bags full of books."

However, it is a fact that the enjoyment is more complex than which books to buy, when the Book Fair program includes dozens of launches, meetings with authors, conferences, panels, and extends to art exhibitions, concerts and film screenings in a veritable cultural mosaic.

The Fair is an appropriate moment for presenting the most important prizes, beginning with the National Literature Prize 2011, awarded to Nersys Felipe, author of unforgettable books for children and young adults, including Cuentos de Guane, Casa de las Américas Prize 1975.

As a gift to children, Casa Editora Abril presented a luxury edition of Tilín de Oro, whose magical characters of dreams, stories and legends were recreated in costume in a children's party at Casa del ALBA Cultural..

Mexican Sergio Pitol (1933) received the Dulce Maria Loynaz International Prize, awarded by the Cuban Union of Writers and Artists (UNEAC).

The author of novels, essays, short stories and monographs was awarded the Juan Rulfo Prize in 1999 and the Cervantes Prize in 2005. For the Fair, Pitol brought El viaje, one of his most important works.

Children's literature, much favored in Cuba, received more prominence when poet Miguel Barnet, president of UNEAC, presented Carlo Frabetti with the Dora Alonso International Prize in the institution's Sala Villena.

Frabetti was justly awarded this prize, conferred for the first time, "for his contribution to readers, particularly children and young adults, for whom he has donated author's rights for many of his books to be published in Cuba."

Expressing his thanks for the words of praise given by Omar Felipe Mauri, UNEAC president in Mayabeque province, the author of the sagas of the dwarf Ulrico, Malditas matemáticas, Alicia en el país de los números, El cuervo dijo nunca más, El vampiro vegetariano and Calvina, affirmed, "In addition to coming as a surprise, this prize is for me the culmination of a idyll I have had for 10 years with my Cuban readers, especially young readers; when I come to Cuba they tell me that this is a selfless act, but it is just the opposite, I am moved by the greatest of interests: to find myself with the great hope of the world. Anything that I do for Cuba will always be a negligible part of what Cuba has done and continues doing for me."

Frabetti had a brief dialogue with this publication:

What books are you bringing on this occasion? "La magia más poderosa y otras aventuras de Ulrico, a compilation of the four books whose central character is this diminutive person, including the story which gives the volume its title, plus Ulrico y las puertas que hablan, Ulrico y la llave de oro and Ulrico y la flecha de cristal, previously published in Cuba but no longer to be found, as here books run out rapidly, which is something marvelous."

What characteristics do you consider literature for children must have? "Well, I believe that fundamentally, it must respect children's intelligence and autonomy, that one shouldn't manipulate or indoctrinate them, one has to encourage their imagination and capacity for reflection."

In terms of language? "One has to take into account that they are persons in formation, they still lack their own rhetorical resources, but that's the only thing to be borne in mind. They are probably unable to catch resources like irony or double meaning, but otherwise one shouldn't underestimate their intelligence."

What are you writing now? "I'm always writing. I have just had one book published, titled Maldita física, it's going to come out in Cuba as well, which is a book to a certain extent parallel to Malditas matemáticas, which has done very well here, and I have already begun a new project, but I'm not going to say anything more about the theme."

Cubans authors of your preference? "Fundamentally, José Martí, who is a maestro and reference for everyone and is not known sufficiently in Europe, and Dora Alonso herself (1910-2001); of course, that is why it is such an honor for me to receive a prize bearing her name."

The University of Havana's Aula Magna was the natural setting for presenting Spanish researcher and journalist Ignacio Ramonet with an Honorary Degree in Communication Science.

This academic award was conferred on the outstanding intellectual and author of One Hundred Hours with Fidel, La golosina visual, and La tiranía de la comunicación y otros textos, by Gustavo Cobreiro, University of Havana Rector.

Meanwhile, Ramonet's La explosión del periodismo. De los medios de masa a la masa de los medios (Editorial José Martí) was launched in La Cabaña's Sala José Antonio Portuondo.

Back to the Cabaña's Sala Nicolas Guillén, and given that the Fair is dedicated to the cultures of Caribbean peoples, it was highly appropriate that Nancy Morejón, National Literature Prize, and an essential voice of contemporary literature in the region, received the Este Caribe Nuestro Prize, awarded by the University of Havana's Caribbean Studies Department.

Expressing thanks for the prize, Morejón evoked Nicolás Guillén, Cuba's national poet, as a perpetual reference and gave a speech on transculturation and miscegenation in the Greater Caribbean.


Music is essential within Cuban culture as a whole. Various titles have been launched at the Fair, among them one by our regular contributor Rafael Lam, Los reyes de la salsa, Editorial José Martí.

A synthesis? "It is a reference book on the origins of so-called salsa music and its central cultivators within and outside of Cuba. I have tried to compile a history of popular Cuban music in the 20th century and the use of the term at the beginning of that century."

The book, presented in the Cabaña's Sala Alejo Carpentier by singer and musical director Moisés Valle, Yumuri, includes interviews, many biographical accounts of bands and soloists in Cuba and the Diaspora, together with Latin American figures such as Tito Puente, Héctor Lavoe, Andy Montañéz, Cheo Feliciano and Gilberto Santa Rosa.

Do you use the term salsa? "I go back to Matamoros and group him under Los reyes de la salsa because it has always been said that Cuban music has much salsa (spicy sauce) and from the early days Ignacio Piñeiro said ‘¡échale salsita!,' and Benny Moré ended his concerts saying, ‘se acabó la salsa!' So salsa comes out of Cuban music, the concept, format and structure of Cuban music is used in salsa.

Precedents for this book? "In Cuba, nobody has ever written about dance music, it has been abandoned, forgotten and unrecognized, and this is surprising because it is the most important aspect of all peoples. Dance music is the mirror of any country, and above all, of Cuba. Books on salsa have been published abroad, taking references from Cuba, but not written by Cubans."

Another researcher into Cuban music, musicologist Alicia Valdés, launched an expanded edition of the Diccionario de Mujeres Notables en la Música Cubana (Editorial Oriente) at UNEAC. The volume covers the history of nearly 400 Cuban women composers, singers, instrumentalists, researchers and teachers.

The legendary Alicia Alonso has inscribed Cuba in the Parnassus of universal ballet. Miguel Cabrera, current National Ballet of Cuba historian, has regaled readers with a new book on the subject, launched in another Book Fair venue, the Dulce María Loynaz Cultural Center.

The volume, El Ballet en Cuba. Apuntes históricos (Ediciones Cúpulas, attached to the Higher Institute of Arts), has 11 chapters and includes 100 photographs of great historical value.

In addition, a colloquium on the figure of Virgilio Piñera and his relationship with Cuban dance was organized in the Cabaña's Sala Lezama Lima, led by Pedro Simón, director of the Cuba en el Ballet publishing house and the National Museum of Dance, as part of celebrations for the centenary of the great Cuban writer.

Once again the Sala Guillén was the venue for the much awaited panel dedicated to the outstanding dramaturge and narrator, headed by National Literature Prize winner Antón Arrufat.

After this tribute to one of the founding fathers of contemporary Cuban theater (Aire frío, Electra Garrigó), came the launch of his novels La carne de René, Pequeñas maniobras, and Presiones y diamantes, as well as Órbita Piñera; Virgilio Piñera en persona, and Virgilio Piñera de vuelta y vuelta, a compilation of his correspondence. (Ediciones Unión).

Ediciones ICAIC has had a unique takeoff, launching 16 new books at the Fair, including Yo también amo el cine, by journalist Orlando Castellanos, containing interviews with 11 filmmakers, selected by Virgen Gutiérrez; Alejo Carpentier's El cine, décima musa, compiling for the first time texts written by Carpentier on film, including reviews, criticisms and commentaries published in the Cuban, French and Venezuelan press, and Las trampas del Oficio. Apuntes sobre cine y sociedad, by Ambrosio Fornet, a reflection on film as a personal and collective experience.


Zuleica Romay, president of the Cuban Book Institute, announced in a press conference, "The 22ndInternational Book Fair is to be dedicated to the historic and great culture of Angola."

"Next year is a propitious moment to reconstitute and recover some aspects of the shared history of Cuba and Angola, which is a long one and dates back to the trading of slaves from one continent to the other; however, neither of the two nations knows the dimension encompassed by these roots, so we need to go deeper into the shared aspects which interconnect us," affirmed Angolan Culture Minister Rosa Cruz da Silva.

"Without any doubt, 2013 will be another moment to recall the African roots which remain in our culture in all their diversity, in all their richness," affirmed Culture Minister Abel Prieto.

The 21st International Book Fair Cuba 2012, has ended in Havana (February 19) and now continues touring the country until March 5. More than 270,000 people attended the capital venues and 600,000-plus books were sold.

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