10 novels to add to your trip planning to Cuba

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Ernest Hemingway is the one writer who immortalized the vitality of Cuba.He became a fixture of Havana, and stayed in the country longer than many Americans, who chose to leave when the relations between Cuba and the United States began to deteriorate.He fished extensively aboard his boat, Pilar, and enjoyed the island lifestyle, hung out in Havana, and entertained guests at the Finca. His home, with many original furnishings, hunting trophies, and personal artifacts can be viewed today.





Hemingway wrote a great deal from his Cuban home. Many of his works from this time weren’t published during his lifetime, However, it’s  fortunate that many of the projects that Hemingway worked on throughout the 1940s were later edited and published after his death.

Authors after Hemingway received inspiration from Cuba’s vast culture and diversity. Cuba is a country of poets. Cuban literature is one of the most prolific, relevant, and influential literature in Latin America and the entire Spanish-speaking world.

The best way to prepare for your visit to Cuba is read great novels set in Cuba.

This is a small sampling of all the wonderful novels that give a window to the many facets of Cuba.

The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway

This is, of course, the best-known novel about Cuba by a non-Cuban author.Hemingway was awarded the Nobel prize for the Old Man and The Sea.  Although it merely recounts the story of a fisherman who after eighty-four days of “bad luck” finally makes a big catch, the novel is also about man’s willpower and spirit of endurance. It’s beautiful fable for the human condition.




Cuba Libre by Elmore Leondard

Elmore Leonard’s historical novel Cuba Libre is Set just after the sinking of the battleship USS Maine in Havana Harbor on February 15 1898. It’s a bloodthirsty story that brings the locations, landmarks, and history alive.






waiting for snowWaiting for Snow in Havana: Confessions of a Cuban Boy by Carlos Eire

In 1962, at the age of eleven, Carlos Eire was one of 14,000 children airlifted out of Cuba, his parents left behind. His life until then is the subject of Waiting for Snow in Havana, a wry, heartbreaking, intoxicatingly beautiful memoir of growing up in a privileged Havana household — and of being exiled from his own childhood by the Cuban revolution.



Dreaming in Cuban” by Cristina García

Ms. García’s first novel tells the story of three generations of women in one family, and how staying in Cuba or fleeing the country affects their lives.






“Three Trapped Tigers” by Guillermo Cabrera Infante

Mr. Infante’s most celebrated novel “borrows from the playfulness and form of James Joyce’s ‘Ulysses’ and ‘Finnegans Wake’ as it describes the decadent life of young people who explore Havana’s cabaret society during the Batista era.






Bacardi and the Long Fight for Cuba” by Tom Gjelten

The history of Cuba told through the family behind the Bacardi Rum Company, founded when Cuba was still a Spanish colony.







Telex From Cuba” by Rachel Kushner

Ms. Kushner’s first novel is about a group of Americans prospering in Cuba before Castro’s revolution, and what happens to them when change comes.






The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love (1989), Óscar Hijuelos

Hijuelos was born in Cuba and wrote this Pulitzer-prize winning work in English. Significantly, it is a novel created from all the stereotypical features that have gone into the construction of the image of Cubans for foreigners: their music, dancing, passion as lovers, and romantic, rebellious spirit. Although there are more important novels written in Cuba from a literary point of view, the great international success of The Mambo Kings and its nostalgic portrait of a Cuba that is more dream than reality, make it a necessary player in the field of the Cuban novel. 


The Sugar King of Havana: The Rise and Fall of Julio Lobo, Cuba’s Last Tycoon by John Paul Rathbone 

Known in his day as the King of Sugar, Julio Lobo was the wealthiest man in prerevolutionary Cuba. He had a life fit for Hollywood: he barely survived both a gangland shooting and a firing squad, and courted movie stars such as Joan Fontaine and Bette Davis. Only when he declined Che Guevara’s personal offer to become Minister of Sugar in the Communist regime did Lobo’s decades-long reign in Cuba come to a dramatic end. Drawing on stories from the author’s own family history and other tales of the island’s lost haute bourgeoisie, The Sugar King of Havana is a rare portrait of Cuba’s glittering past-and a hopeful window into its future.


Three Trapped Tigers (Tres tristes tigres) by Guillermo Cabrera Infante (1967, trans. Suzanne Jill Levine & Donald Gardner)

This is the book which created a literary language of Havana. It’s a kind of cathedral of words, and no translation could do it full justice, but readers throughout the world have enjoyed Cabrera Infante’s fiction thanks to his wit and the stories he welds together in an unrivalled portrait of 1950s Havana nightlife, the golden age of Cuban music and the city. Once you’ve read this, Havana will never look the same again.



Final suggestion to make your visit to Cuba the best: 

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Judy Kundert

Judy Kundert, a recipient of the Marquis Who’s Who Excellence in Authorship award, loves storytelling, from folk and fairy tales to classics for elementary school children. She authors award-winning middle-grade novels designed to inspire and intrigue children. After she left her career as a United Airlines stewardess, she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Loyola University, Chicago and a Master of Arts from DePaul University, Chicago. Most recently, she completed a master’s Certificate in Public Relations and Marketing from the University of Denver. For fun, she likes reading (usually three or four books at a time), watching movies from the oldies to the current films, traveling, biking, and hiking in vast Colorado outdoors with her husband. Learn more at www.judykundert.com.You can find me at the foot of the Colorado Rocky Mountains hiking, biking

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