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Known as one of the most solid and notable of world history, Russian literature will at the center of Cubans’ attention during the next edition of Havana’s International Book Fair, to be held in February and March.

Traditionally, readers in Cuba have had access to the great monuments of letters from that nation, the links of which with those of the island date back to the beginnings of the Cuban revolutionary process, when editorial policy opened to the most diverse works of the world panorama, the aesthetic values of which merited their inclusion in Cuba’s publishing catalogs.

Authors like Pushkin, Tolstoi, Gorki, Sholokov, Checkov or Bulgakov are not alien to readers in this part of the New World, where the presence of artistic expressions from the former Soviet Union were customary at bookshops, and movie theaters enjoyed the acknowledgment and demand of wide sectors of the Cuban population.

Currently, many people in Cuba have a perfect command of the Russian language. This will make it possible to establish communication beyond translations during the upcoming Book Fair, which, to pay tribute to the guest country, the Book Institute and publishing houses like Unión will put at the disposal of the public on their stands.

Russian literature has its origins, like almost all literatures, in oral tradition, until the introduction of Christianity in the year 959 which favored the popularization of the alphabet, created by Byzantine missionaries Cyril and Methodius.

In the 11th century, all the tribes of eastern Slavs were part of the Rus of Kiev and had a single language, ancient Russian, until the 13th century when, with the division of the state, other languages, like Ukrainian and Belorussian, developed.

The first book in the Russian language we have news of is the manuscript on wax entitled Codex of Novgorod, psalms that tackle themes like the glorification of beauty and Russian power, the denunciation of the autocracy of princes and the
defense of moral principles.

But specialists have coincided to describe the 19th century as the golden century of Russian literature, when poetry and prose reached their highest peak by way of literary romanticism and realism.

It’s in this period when great poet Alexander Pushkin lived. Pushkin’s reforms in writing brought a rupture of traditions, with his excellent lyric and epic poems, dramatic works in verse, remarkable prose and short stories, also put into verse.

He will be one of the authors that will be accessible to Cubans during the Fair. Also standing out in the first half of the 19th century is narrator Nicolai Gogol, well known among Cuban readers especially for his book Almas Muertas (Dead Souls).

During the second half of that century, a pleiad of authors like Leon Tolstoy, Feodor Dostoevsky and Ivan Turgenev appeared which would turn Russian literature into an expression of universal scope, the genius of which has transcended until today.

The amount of excellent poets in Russian letters that published their works between the 19th and 20th centuries is considerable. It’s necessary to mention, among them, Alexander Blok and Ana Ajmatova, authors that are unclassifiable within any specific literary current, and others like Serguei Esenin, Marina Stvetayeva or Vladimir Mayakovski.

Also excelling between the 19th and 20th centuries is the figure of Anton Chejov, a universal playwright and prose writer of great stature and influence in the future of universal letters.

Other authors like Mijail Bulgakov, Boris Pasternak, Máximo Gorki, Ilia Erenburg, Mijail Sholojov or Evgueni Evtushenko complete this summary panorama of great names.

But Havana’s Book Fair will also be attended by more recent authors, practically unknown to Cubans, whom they’ll be able to learn about by way of two anthologies of poetry and short stories prepared by the Arte y Literatura Publishing House.

Also very much anticipated is the translation of El maestro y Margarita (The teacher and Margarita), by Bulgakov, by Cuban novelist Julio Travieso, which will be a new interpretation of that novel, a favorite and often read book in Cuba since its first publication in the 1980’s.

All in all, the presence of Russia by way of its writers in Cuba will be an event that will give continuity to the beautiful tradition linking Cuban readers with its powerful writing, the closeness of which has made it become almost part of our cultural heritage.


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