RE: RARA-AVIS: A question for Jose (or mebbe two)

From: Jose Latour (
Date: 29 Jan 2002

Dear Rene:

Your question is not trivial at all and I'm glad you made it. Crime fiction is the most popular literary genre in Cuba. It doesn't matter if a book is a masterpiece, an average-quality book, or a disaster; it will sell anyway. But in my opinion, the facts that all Cuban publishing houses are state-owned, and that for many years an inflexible Communist cultural policy was enforced, acted against national authors and readers alike. Writing critically about the social roots of local crime, of corruption in government circles, almost always implied your book wouldn't be published. This has been eased a little in the last five or six years, but there's still much to change in editorial policy.

I consider that, as in other countries, crime fiction in Cuba has been the victim of its own success. Most ivory-tower intellectuals resent the fact that one of them devotes ten years of his life to researching and writing a biography of some great historical figure and it sells perhaps two thousand copies. Then he learns that a crime author wrote a second-rate thriller in ten months and its 50,000-copy print run sells out in two months. Although market considerations were negligible here in the 80's, the fact that crime fiction sold well made publishers publish some very bad crime books and use the profits to partly subsidize less popular works. Would it be possible that this happens in other countries as well?

More on which to base my view that crime fiction has been the victim of its own succes. Few low-quality poetry books get published because hardly ever poetry books sell well. So, poetry publishers are extremely choosy, only publish the best they get. Low-quality crime fiction, on the contrary, goes to print on a daily basis, in the US, the UK, France, Germany, everywhere, because there's a market for it. Only the worst manuscripts get rejected.

It has been well-publicized that president Castro is a keen reader and friendly with Garcia Marquez. I ignore whether or not he reads crime fiction, neither the authors/books he likes.

I want to seize this opportunity to express my gratitude to all other Rara-Avis members for their kind and encouraging farewell messages.

Best of luck to all.



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