Cuba’s Top Writer Speaking at UC Davis

Padura visting writer

One of Cuba’s most acclaimed writers, Leonardo Padura, will be giving talks and readings at UC Davis Oct. 24 and 25. Padura is known internationally for his series of Mario Conde detective novels, which have been translated into many languages and made into a Netflix series.

Padura has received the National Prize for Literature, Cuba's national literary award, and in 2015 the Premio Principe de Asturias de las Letras of Spain, one of the most important literary prizes in the Spanish-speaking world.

 The Oct. 24 event at 4:30 p.m. at the Jan Shrem and Maria Manetti Shrem Museum of Art will start with a recent 30-minute film about Padura’s life and writings, followed by a panel discussion. The Oct. 25 event, at 1:30 p.m. in Voorhees Hall room 126, will be more informal. Both are free and open to the public. I

“His works are well known all over the world,” said Emilio Bejel, distinguished professor in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese. “The subject matter he writes about is not esoteric and is something everyone can understand.”

Padura is an unusual figure in Cuba — a writer who has not been harassed or censored by the ruling Communist party, but who hasn’t shied away from investigative journalism or novels with issues and circumstances that carry critical commentaries about contemporary Cuba.

For Cuba’s intellectuals, and for its professional class, a new Padura book is as much a document as a novel, a way of understanding Cuban reality,” wrote Jon Lee Anderson in a profile of Padura for The New Yorker. “Although he speaks carefully in public, in private he will acknowledge, ‘People think that what I say is a measure of what can or can’t be said in Cuba.’” 

He first came to prominence as an investigative journalist in the 1980s, published his first novel in 1988, and has also written several screenplays. Some people may also recognize him from his lunch with Anthony Bourdain in the television series “Parts Unknown.”

Padura is serving as a writer-in-residence at UC Irvine during October. His UC visits are made possible by UC Irvine and the UC-CUBA Multi-Campus Academic Initiative, a grassroots research effort by faculty members and graduate students whose work includes Cuban studies.  

— Jeffrey Day, content strategist in the College of Letters and Science

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