Cuba’s National Award for Literature: It’s not who awards it, it’s who accepts it

Juan Abreu in his Emanaciones #1287 (my translation):


Writer Leonardo Padura has received an award. I have read some nonsense about it and here is some of it. No one mentions that Padura has been given an award by a ferocious dictatorship that has spent the last 53 years in power and to remain in power has murdered, tortured, and imprisoned thousands of Cubans. No one mentions those who have drowned in the Florida Straits trying to escape those who gave Padura an award. Lastly — and this has become boring — no one mentions that Padura has been and continues to be a prominent ass kisser of the regime. Although some may want to dress up Padura as something else, he is an ass kisser who follows to a tee the dictates of the dictatorship, extending his tongue as far as he is allowed and authorized.

Oh, yes, Commandant… We are no longer a colony of the Soviets? We can now criticize Stalin? Then here I go, Commandant, with my doggishly loyal tome. Yes, Commandant, whatever you wish Commandant.

It is the most logical thing that Padura was given the National Award for Literature. They have always given it to a Padura. Never a writer. Always an ass-kissing lapdog that jumps through hoops as ordered.

The most despicable aspect of Cuba’s National Award for Literature is not who awards it, but who accepts it.

What does the award have to do with literature? Nothing. It is just another ceremony between master and slave in which the master gives the slave a slap on the back and the slave trembles in appreciation, letting loose a nervous yelp.

One thought on “Cuba’s National Award for Literature: It’s not who awards it, it’s who accepts it

  1. Padura deserves the prize, regardless of actual literary merit. Like any prize from a totalitarian system, everyone knows what it’s really given for: being duly useful to the power structure. From that standpoint, even Padura’s worst detractors must admit he’s eminently qualified. Castro, Inc. doesn’t give a shit about artistic or literary merit as such, unless it can use it to its advantage.

    Alas, Padura is much more the norm than the exception, so there were certainly other worthy candidates. There always have been. As I’ve noted before, Cubans get confused by someone like José Martí, who would never have won such a prize from a totalitarian regime despite his undisputed literary greatness. They get confused because Martí the man was so exceptional he was frankly abnormal, certainly for a Cuban. A Padura, however, is an entirely different creature, far more familiar and, in that sense, more comfortable. He strikes me as a quintessential Cuban type: the “camaján,” a consummate operator (“persona astuta que sabe sacar provecho personal de cualquier situación”). This is what a camaján looks like:

    So, for the umpteenth time, Cuba’s main problem is very simple: too many shitty Cubans. If that is ever fully faced, and enough Cubans treat shitty ones with the contempt and rejection they deserve, maybe we’ll get somewhere.

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