A small revolution at Cuba's book fair

Fifty-some spectators in a field at a book reading may not sound like a particularly dramatic event. But in Cuba the reading aloud of an unauthorized book near the site of the Havana Book Fair was a piece of history in the making.

Cuban author Orlando Pardo's "Boring Home," a clandestinely published work of fiction, describes the "existential ennui" that he feels has gripped his country since the 1959 revolution led by Fidel Castro. Louis Nevaer, writing for New America Media, says that Pardo's reading of his book on Feb. 16 marks the first time in 50 years that Cuban authorities have allowed a public reading from an unauthorized book.

(Government authorities were present and videotaped the event but made no arrests and did not attempt to stop the reading.)

Nevaer writes that the fact that the reading was allowed to go forward suggests that either the Cuban regime is "exhausted" or that Raul Castro's grip on security is less firm than that of his brother, Fidel.

According to Nevaer, Pardo had approached the organizers of the Havana Book Fair and asked to be able to present his book, but permission was denied. So he organized an e-mail and blog campaign, spreading the news that he would read from his book in a field close to the fair grounds.

Since Feb. 16, news about the reading has continued to circulate on the Internet, where the book itself can be viewed. As one Cuban blogger suggests, "Perhaps being banned from the fair, was the best thing to happen to this brave author."

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