Monday, August 20, 2007

Portrait of an Exiled Cuban Author

The German literary web site Sign and Sight (newly blogrolled, BTW) has a fascinating article on exiled Cuban author Amir Valle. Now living in Germany, Valle's specialty is crime fiction. The article describes how Valle's commitment to artistic and intellectual integrity over loyalty to the Castro regime led to his involuntary exile:

In 2002 came the first caesura: Culture Minister Abel Prieto warned publishers to be careful in their dealings with Valle at a national meeting. At the time Valle was working for the Puerto Rican publisher Plaza Mayor, supervising their Cuban collection. But as the company belonged to Patricia Menoyo, the daughter of a well-known Cuban opposition figure, Valle was considered suspect, despite the prizes received by his literary work. The trained journalist first heard of the Culture Minister's thunderbolt through a publisher, and - as opposed to many of his colleagues - took the offensive, immediately writing to Abel Prieto asking him for a statement on his comments. He never received an answer. Not one to shy away from a conflict situation, Valle made no secret of his views abroad, at home, and to the political establishment, openly declaring his solidarity with Raul Rivero Castaneda, the poet and journalist who was arrested in 2003 and given a stiff prison sentence, and who now lives in Spain.

In Cuba this was a taboo, and Valle intentionally transgressed it. The place of an intellectual is on the side of the government. In going against this dictate, he placed himself squarely in the opposition, Valle admits. Yet he never dreamed he would be barred from returning home, and he harbours firm intentions of going back to his stepson in the apartment on the Calle Rayo. His own son, the six year old Lior, has long joined his father in Germany. Valle wrote to Gabriel Garcia Marquez, the Colombian friend of Fidel Castro, as well as to Cuban intellectuals and politicians, threatening an international scandal if his son was not allowed to leave. A few days later Valle's father in Havana received the papers necessary for the boy's departure. The permit is limited to two years, after which Valle too hopes to be allowed to return. Until then he wants to put the time to good use by writing - also about his experience with the Cuban revolution: yet another taboo Valle has no bones about breaking.

Hopefully, the day will come soon when Mr. Valle is free to both travel to his homeland and write about any topic he chooses.


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