Is reading fashionable? The Havana Book Fair opens 14 February

For example, it introduces "this new bio-optical knowledge device commercially known as a 'book', a revolutionary technological breakthrough… no cables, no electrical circuits, no batteries, no Internet connection… compact and portable and can be used anywhere…"

The diminishing importance of books that the advert addresses can also be seen in Cuba, but even though the numbers of young people burying their heads in digital devices are growing, readers in Cuba are still in the millions and the search for new publications reaches a peak every February in the International Book Fair, one of the most important cultural events in the country.

The 22nd edition opens on February 14 at its traditional venue, the San Carlos de la Cabaña Fortress, and the tour of the event through the provinces continues until March 10.

This year's book fair honors Cuba's national hero, José Martí, on the 160th anniversary of his birth. It is also dedicated to the writers Pedro Pablo Rodríguez, 2009 Social Sciences National Prize winner, and Daniel Chavarría, 2010 National Literature Prize. Angola is the invited focus country this year.

Thanks to the combination of the tribute to Martí and one of the most dedicated researchers into his work, Pedro Pablo Rodríguez, many books on the national hero will be included in the Fair.

The José Martí Study Center has published Volume 24 of the Critical Edition of the Complete Works of Martí; a beautiful re-edition of La Edad de Oro, and a bilingual edition of Versos Sencillos.

Pedro Pablo Rodríguez (1946), PhD in Historical Sciences, has researched and published extensively on a range of topics related to Cuban history and thought, particularly abut the 19th century patriotic movement; the life and works of José Martí, and Máximo Gómez; Cuban economic thought; and Cuba-U.S. relations.

His work has been published by various entities, including the Jose Marti Study Center itself, with Al sol voy, atisbos a la política martiana; a selection of essays, entitled De todas partes, perfiles de José Martí; while Ediciones Unión has three titles, including Pensar, prever, servir. Ensayos; and the essay El Partido Revolucionario Cubano, from Ediciones Vigía.

Daniel Chavarría (1933), "a Uruguayan-born Cuban writer" as he defines himself, has written short stories, despite saying that he is only interested in novels, and since his highly acclaimed Joy, has won a considerable public following. This year El ojo de Cibeles and Viudas de sangre are republished.

The Fair will also provide an opportunity to discover the literature of Angola, with 18 titles from its most eminent writers and more than 50 books on Angola published in Cuba.

Fans of the detective Jaime Bunda, created by Pepetela, whose real name is Artur Carlos Maurício Pestana dos Santos, will now find his novel El terrorista de Berkeley, California, and discover other works and other authors, including Temas de la vida angolana, by Oscar Rivas; El libro de oro, an anthology of children's stories; La casa vieja de las márgenes, by Arnaldo Santos and Quien fuera ola, by Manuel Rui.

Among the anthologies are Narrativa (Editorial José Martí); Cuentos infantiles (published by Gente Nueva); Antología de cuentos angolanos, De sueños y travesías (Arte y Literatura) and Viaje por Angola; Etnias y pueblos de Angola; Historia; Flora; Fauna; Una cultura maravillosa and Mitos y leyendas (all published by Casa Editora Abril)

During a press conference, Jesús David Curbelo, director of the Dulce María Loynaz Center, stated that many other books deal with the issue of Cuban collaboration in Angola from different perspectives, including military, educational and medical, referring to them as "valuable testimonies from various publishing houses, such as the San Luis and Ciencias socials."

Edel Morales, vice president of the Cuban Book Institute, outlined two key areas of foreign participation in the Fair; the exhibition area with 2,500 meters set aside in La Cabaña for 134 exhibitors from 25 countries, and the other, visits from authors who draw in readers.

He announced that 200 intellectuals from 32 countries will be attending. The largest contingents are from Mexico, Argentina, Chile, Spain, Venezuela, Italy, Ecuador, the United States and Russia.

He named some of those who would be in Havana, including the Uruguayan Mario Delgado Aparaín, with his La balada de Johny Sosa published by Arte y Literatura; Juan Madrid from Spain launching Cuentos completos; Venezuelan Gabriel Jiménez with Sueños y Guerra; the Chilean writer Claudia Apablaza, ALBA Narrative Prize winner announced at the 2012 Book Fair, and whose novel, Goo y el amor is to be launched; plus the well-known Paco Ignacio Taibo from Mexico.

Naturally, there will be countless Cuban authors whose books have been launched by a range of publishing houses. As an aperitif, some from Letras Cubanas that will be sought after: Batido de chocolate y otros cuentos de sabor amargo, by Alexis Díaz-Pimienta; Crónicas caribeñas, Alejo Carpentier; Cuentos negros de Cuba, Lydia Cabrera; and Del encausto a la sangre, Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, by Mirta Aguirre, being launched in honor of the centenary of her birth.

As stated in the ingenious advert mentioned at the beginning of the article: Welcome to the 'book' experience. Welcome to the 22nd International Book Fair, Cuba 2013, because fortunately, for millions of people, reading is still fashionable. •

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