© Anna Eichenbronner
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. La Catedral de los Negros received the Alejo Carpentier Award for novels in 2012 and the Critics' Award for the best books published in Cuba in 2012. He currently lives between Buenos Aires and Cienfuegos.
Sentada en su verde limón (“Sitting in a Lime Tree”) 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.
Marcial Gala's exceptional novel is outlined against a dramatic backdrop: the so-called Special Period, the economic crisis in Cuba triggered by the collapse of the Soviet Union.
In La Catedral de los Negros (“Cathedral of the Blacks”), 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.
La Catedral de los Negros is an architectural work on account not only of its theme but also its arrangement. The novel contains elements that may remind the reader of the audacity of the writers gathered under the label of the Latin American Boom.
One of the most original voices of Cuban literature.
Sentada en su verde limón
Buenos Aires: Corregidor 2017, 143 p.
La Catedral de los Negros
Buenos Aires: Corregidor 2015, 240 p.
Alejo Carpentier Award for novels 2012
Critics Award for the best books published in Cuba 2012
USA: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Represented for Corregidor