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The scriptwriter of the famous Cuban film Fresa y Chocolate (Strawberry and chocolate), presents
The discovery of sex, tolerance (or lack of it) and the necessity to embrace all human beings, regardless of their beliefs and life creeds, are some of the main ingredients that have helped Cuban writer Senel Paz (Las Villas, 1950) "cook" his latest book En el Cielo con Diamantes (In the Sky with Diamonds), which he recently presented to an enthusiastic audience in Havana.

The scriptwriter of the famous Cuban film Fresa y Chocolate (Strawberry and chocolate), by directors Tomás Gutiérrez Alea and Juan Carlos Tabío, mixes here a belated tribute to the incombustible Beatles (he and many of his literary peers who grew up in the 60s are diehard fans), while delving into the interstices of Cuban society, warts and all, of the last forty years or so.

A novel full of wit and memoirs, In the Sky. reminisces through its over 300 pages about the younger years of those in their 50s today, poking fun at whatever the author considers a target worth of contention or derision, be it Cuban social habits and traditions, religion, sex, ideology and politics of all sorts.

Just as he did for Strawberry... more than 15 years ago, Senel Paz touches this time on taboo-like topics, managing to bring out a smile every now and then, while keeping his reader imbued with daily life realities, most of which have been either ignored, distorted or treated with kids gloves in the local literature and media for too long.

In 1993, for the first time ever in Cuban cinema, Strawberry (considered among the Best Foreign Film category for the Oscars that year) dealt with homosexuality and intolerance in the island, seen through the eyes of a gay connoisseur of Cuban culture and the emerging young communist writer he eventually befriends.

And now Paz is back, with double loads in his guns. His friend and colleague Francisco Sacha, who presented the novel in Havana, said on the occasion that Paz has returned to his favourite literary theme: the inclusion of the "other" and the necessity of fostering participation.

The protagonists of In the sky... are two teenagers who are born and grow up in small country side town, living their early years in the often-idealized 60s, going later to Havana to study. Once in the capital city, they are forced to grapple with intolerance of all kind, prejudices and the human tendency to see it everything through single lenses, without margin for doubt, as they wish and feel that life should be approached.

Through the years, Senel Paz has penned film scripts, short stories and novels. He became worldwide known after winning the 1991 Juan Rulfo literary prize in Mexico, with his story El Bosque, El Lobo y el Hombre Nuevo, (The Woods, the Wolf and The New Man). The story later inspired Strawberry and Chocolate and garnered the prize for best script in the 14th International Film Festival of Latin American Cinema, held in Havana.


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