Project Description

Alejo Carpentier Award 2012Marcial Gala

Cuba

Marcial Gala was born in Havana in 1965. He is a novelist, poet and architect, and is a member of UNEAC, the Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba. He won the Pinos Nuevos Award for short stories in 1999. THE BLACK CATHEDRAL received the Alejo Carpentier Award for novels in 2012 and the Critics’ Award for the best books published in Cuba in 2012. Gala has also won the Premio Ñ 2018 with CALL ME CASSANDRA (formery “Intensos compromisos con la nada”). He currently lives between Buenos Aires and Cienfuegos.

»One of the most original voices of Cuban literature.«
Diario UNO

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Marcial Gala© Anna Eichenbronner

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Call Me Cassandra

Call me Cassandra (“Llámenme Casandra”) is the story of Rauli, who is ten years old and an avid reader of classical literature. He was born in the wrong body and can see the future: he already knows that as the years go by he will fight in Angola and that he will die pierced by bullets that distil homophobia. He already knows how his companions will die. And he would like to be called Cassandra. Between childhood and adolescence, the novel narrates the search for an identity in a hostile environment that witnesses the collapse of the dream of the new man and the internationalist utopia. Lyrical and realist at the same time, “Call me Cassandra” reconstructs everyday life in Cuba in the 1970s, with a loving gaze at his characters and a great ability to embed the classic myth and characters of the Trojan War into the history of the Angolan war. A novel of initiation and identity that grabs you from the very first pages.

Quotes

Call Me Cassandra

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Rocanrol

Young Alejandro and Ismael are doing their Cuban military service in the 1980’s. Both are outsiders because of their nonconformist attitude, sharing their aversion to Cuban rhythms and an enthusiasm for Western rock music, a symbol of freedom and against uniformity. Alejandro devoted himself to illegal cannabis cultivation. When a girl he was in love with informs on him, he is sent to the army. While he tries to obtain a quick release by playing the fool, Ismael takes advantage of the opportunity to transfer to a special unit which enjoys certain privileges. The reader learns about their destinies and about Cuban daily life in the second half of the twentieth century.
All this opens up a historical dimension that attests to the Cuban Revolution and its shortcomings. But Rocanrol also tells the story of those who are nobodies, pushed by the winds of change. For Alejandro and Ismael rock music is an effective means not to lose their own essence. This connects them even after their paths separate. The stories of Alejandro and Ismael write their own narrative within the immense narrative of history. What may at first seem like a witty book about growing up into adulthood, thus becomes charged with the tragedy of lives lived, and transforms into great literature.

Quotes

Rocanrol

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The Black Cathedral

In The Black Cathedral (“La Catedral de los Negros”), a couple from Camagüey arrives in a scruffy neighbourhood in the city of Cienfuegos. The father is a Christian belonging to the Holy Sacrament congregation who soon discovers that God has given him a mission: to build a church that surpasses anything previously seen in Cuba. The neighbourhood is a hive of passions and conflicts, and alongside the cathedral that rises day by day in Cienfuegos, a generation grows marked by violence, cruelty and the most extreme selfishness – defects that the characters carry with them well beyond the borders of their neighbourhood, their city, and Cuba itself, as though they could not escape the cursed, nefarious shadow of the unfinished cathedral. The novel opens out into a multiplicity of voices that discuss, explain and complete each other. This is a novel of broken architectures, characters, and narrators. A reflection of what is left when dreams are exhausted.

Quotes

The Black Cathedral

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Sitting in a Lime Tree

Sitting in a Lime Tree (“Sentada en su verde limón”) owes its title to a child’s song about a little bird. The novel takes place in the 1990s in Cienfuegos. It is the time of the economic crisis after the collapse of the Soviet Bloc, but this is only the background for an extraordinary love story: the crazy love affair between the eighteen-year-old white Kirenia, who writes poems, and the fifty-five-year-old black Harris, a jazz saxophonist, who originally grew up in the USA and has already played with all the great figures of jazz. The love between the unconventional girl and the angry alcoholic is doomed from the beginning. It is Kirenia who is crushed by it. The story is told by Ricardo, a painter who sells his pictures to tourists for US dollars and is friends with both of them, drinking, smoking marijuana and listening to music with them. In such passages, the text rises to the intensity of a saxophone solo, while in others it calms down to soothing inner monologues, in which the spirits as well as the living have a voice. A book that hurts and at the same time makes you happy.

Quotes

Sitting in a Lime Tree

RIGHTS

NOVELS
Call Me Cassandra (“Llámenme Casandra”)
Buenos Aires: Alfaguara 2019, 266 p.
Ñ Prize of the City of Buenos Aires – Clarín for Novels 2018
English translation available
France: Zulma · USA: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, forthcoming January 2022.

Rocanrol
Buenos Aires: Corregidor 2019, 216 p

The Black Cathedral (“La Catedral de los Negros”)
Havana: Letras Cubanas 2012; Buenos Aires: Corregidor 2015, 240 p.
Alejo Carpentier Award for novels 2012
Critics Award for the best books published in Cuba 2012
Included in Publishers Weekly’s “Writers to Watch Spring 2020”
Egypt: Al Arabi · France: Belleville · German: Nagel & Kimche 2019 · USA: Farrar, Straus and Giroux 2020

Sitting in a Lime Tree (“Sentada en su verde limón”)
Havana: Letras Cubanas 2004, 120p.; Buenos Aires: Corregidor 2017, 143 p.
Italy: Nuovo Editrici Berti 2018