Home > Miguel Iturria Savón, Translator: Tomás A. > Living Word and Forgotten Voices

Living Word and Forgotten Voices

February 26, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments


In one of the stands at the Havana Book Fair, which was held at La Cabana between February 11th and 21st, we found the result of a testimonial project of great interest for Cuban culture. I refer to the Living Word Collection of the Pablo de la Torriente Brau Center, consisting of 21 cassettes and 23 CDs with the voices of prominent literary figures of the island.

Since its founding in 1996, The Pablo Cultural Center has promoted testimony and oral history among researchers, journalists, writers and sociologists living in Cuba. To that end it awards the Remembrance Prize and established the Fund for the Word, which has more than a hundred recordings of poets, storytellers, and artists, some from other places but all connected to the island.

It’s fine to rescue in any form the expressive legacy of our creative artists, but after reviewing the dozens of cassettes and compact discs we realized there were regrettable omissions. You would only have to pan a camera over the list of honorees to realize the forgotten voices. And not just those who took flight in search of greater creative freedom, but also poets, novelists, journalists, and historians who write in Cuba. Take, for example, Rafael Alcides or Lina Feria.

The Living Word collection of the Pablo Center was a project started by one of its collaborators, the journalist Orlando Castellanos (1930-1998), who interviewed hundreds of intellectuals and wanted to preserve the memory of our creators. The recordings began in 2000 with the tapes donated by Castellanos, and later sources such as Raul Roa talking about Pablo, taken from the soundtrack of the documentary Pablo (1977), by Emilio Roig de Leuchsenring, produced thanks to the Archive of the City Historian. The compilation switched to compact discs in 2004, with the volume dedicated to the Spaniard Federico García Lorca.

The cassettes contain, additionally, some devoted to the poets Luis Rogelio Nogueras, Fayad Jamis, Eliseo Diego, Nicolas Guillen, Roberto Fernandez Retamar, Félix Pita Rodríguez, Miguel Barnet, Rafael Alberti, Carilda Oliver, Dulce María Loynaz and Pablo Armando Fernandez. The recordings capture the voices of storytellers like Onelio Jorge Cardoso and Alejo Carpentier, the comedian Enrique Núñez Rodríguez, and the painter René Portocarrero, who speaks of the rhythm and color of Havana.

The compact discs evoke Federico García Lorca in the voices of Cuban and foreign artists (Rafael Alberti, Ian Gibson, Benedetti, Celaya Gabriel Garcia Marquez), and “revive” the characters of muses like Jose Soler Puig, Victor Casaus, Thiago de Mello, Cintio Vitier, Julio Cortazar, Cesar Lopez, Guillermo Rodriguez Rivera, Tomas Gutierrez Alea, and those previously mentioned, Orlando Castellanos, García Márquez, Alejo Carpentier and Rafael Alberti.

At the 2010 Havana International Book Fair we acquired two new Living Word compact discs. Both are dedicated to the centennial of personalities from various fields. One is on the Cuban José Juan Arrom, and the other is about the shepherd-poet Miguel Hernandez, who died in prison in Alicante, Spain, at age 31. Love and war are the themes of the Hispanic bard, in whose voice we now hear the Song of the Soldier Husband, along with tributes by Cuban musicians and writers.

There are voices that are overlooked Collection Living Word — poets, essayists, storytellers, historians and other architects of the written word who live within or outside the country — whose oral testimony would add new shades to the island creation. It is illogical to ask a state-subsidized institution to assume such a great challenge, but censorship is evident, because none among the honorees slips in a critique of the daily absurdities of this society governed by bureaucracy and centralism.

Translated by: Tomás A.

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