BY MARTÍN KOPPEL AND RÓGER CALERO
HAVANA, Cuba - The Seventh International Book Fair opened here February 7. A major cultural event in Cuba, it is expected to attract tens of thousands of people and has drawn daily coverage in the Cuban media. Eighty thousand people attended the last fair, held in 1994.
Dozens of publishers from more than 25 countries are participating in the 1996 book fair, which is held every two years. Some of the largest representation is from Spain, Mexico, and Argentina. There are also exhibitions from publishers located in Italy, Iran, Japan, the United Kingdom, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Vietnam, Germany, Russia, and the United States, among others.
Most noticeable is the expanded presence of Cuban exhibitors. Sixty publishing houses and institutions from this nation have booths here, with about 200 current Cuban titles on display - a significant increase from 1994. Organizers of the book fair have noted that this reflects the recent pickup in publishing in Cuba, one aspect of the slight economic upturn in this country.
At the opening ceremony of the event, José Donate Llosa, general director of the 1996 Havana Book Fair, pointed out that the number of books published here increased to 4 million last year, up from a low of 1 million in 1993. Several periodicals have resumed publication, such as the humor magazine El Caimán Barbudo (The Bearded Alligator).
Among the titles on display is the New Pines series, a collection of 100 books by previously unpublished Cuban authors. This effort was cosponsored by the Cuban Book Institute and a group of Argentine publishers who donated funds to make these books available. A similar initiative was featured at the 1994 book fair.
One of the most interesting new titles is Pombo: Un hombre de la guerrilla del Che (Pombo: a guerrilla with Che). The author, Cuban brigadier general Harry Villegas, fought with Ernesto Che Guevara in the Cuban revolutionary war of the late 1950s as well as in the guerrilla struggles in the Congo and Bolivia in the mid-1960s, where he was known by his nom de guerre, Pombo. The book, published by Editora Política in Havana, is based on Pombo's diary of the Bolivian campaign, which has never before been published. It gives his firsthand account of the months prior to and immediately following the death of Guevara at the hands of the CIA-directed Bolivian army, including many details previously unavailable.
Among the exhibits at the Havana Book Fair is a display of Pathfinder Press. The booth is staffed by a team of volunteers from Canada, Australia, Britain, and Iceland. The main highlight of the Pathfinder exhibit is the just- published Episodes of the Cuban Revolutionary War, by Cuban revolutionary leader Ernesto Che Guevara. Long out of print, the new edition of Episodes has attracted considerable interest among those attending the book fair.
Mary-Alice Waters, editor of Episodes, has been interviewed for several radio programs as well as the daily newspaper Granma.
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