Antonio Carballo, Short Story Award Winnner
"Being a writer here should be mandatory"
What does it mean for you to write stories about and from Havana?
Well, Havana is the place where I have lived since I was a kid, because I am one of the first modern immigrants of the “far west”, it is a way to sum up and operate everything that happened in this city during the last decades. I guess that there are few capitals on the planet where without existing changes on the established direction, it could be recorded so many facts of opposite signs. In Havana there were niches of artillery when the Missile Crisis, bright music stars in the Varadero Festival, massive people´s marches, and, on the other hand, storming of embassies to emigrate, repulsive episodes of repudiation to who wanted to leave the country and then come back as if nothing had happened, or expecting to be welcomed in some moments of Kafkaesque logic.
Here the use of payphones was free and cell phones were prohibited as well as the entrance to hotels, which in theory we owned. On the streets of Havana there is no violence, however, its material state is so critical that it seems there was a bombarding in a ruthless war of excuses and nonsenses. It is also possible to consider our city as a Theme Park of the Auto motor Industry.
There is no need to say any more. I have a dear colleague from Madrid that once said that being a writer here should be mandatory.
What do you underline in your stories about this city?
Well, I have almost answered that question before, but I would like to point out some things. I always try to avoid the excesses and the radical postures while trying to understand reality. The same things happen everywhere. The last time I travelled to Spain, on 2007, that country seemed the Garden of Eden, so any attempt to explain there some situations in Cuba was a titanic task. Now, some outrageous things happen in our mother country and they are very difficult to be understood by anyone who has got in touch with the previous status of that nation. The matter is that the well-being state wasn´t sustainable and it caused a bunch of negative situations, evictions, massive unemployment, etc. Another example: I know some fellows countrymen who live in the United States and travel regularly to the Island searching for some of their country warmth, sexual relations, to satisfy nostalgia in general and to go to the dentist or undergo a plastic surgery.
The reality is extremely complex and diverse. I think it is convenient for any creator to take it into account to reproduce it. It is of no use to pull one´s hair and to feel victimize. We all should run away from every fatalistic attitudes produced by so many years of necessities and frustrations, and to look forward. So, when I tell a story about Havana, or about the country in general, I try to be objective, to remember that it takes all sorts to make a world. I have been foolishly harassed in a hotel where I worked a few Saturdays of Voluntary Work during its construction, but the stupid ones that made me went through that situation in my own country are only a part, out of many others that are worst, of our fellows countrymen and not a whole.
That is the starting point. But I’m not an expert on these subjects nor a writer as such, but a simple reader that one day crossed the border and began to write.
Tell us about your experience with the official announcement and the contest of www.havanastreetview.com.
It is very interesting for me the project HSV. First, because the city needs alive expressions of its fans and, as a result, it needs an open vision of its vital anatomy. I´m not against the touristic image, but it is obvious that it is something partial and restricted to very specific interests. Today we attend to the world of diverse expression and social networks; the fact that in the Island we have a pile of limitations referred to connectivity and technology in general, should not lead to apathy but quite the opposite. The pleasure of winning the first prize on short story HSV seems an excellent example. In my particular case, I have three books published in Spain, as a result of some prizes, however, to publish a text in my own country has been a useless hell. I guess that it also happens to every creative manifestations if they move away from some conventional structures, commonly pretty rigid.
And the city is more than El Morro and Focsa, more than its ruined sidewalks, its old cars and its posters showing out-of-date slogans. Havana has a magic well known everywhere, an especial place that makes people to come back and love her.
That the team of friends that set up HSV gathers in a community excited about the promotion of their capital, no matter how difficult and uncertain it could be, is a strong evidence of its charm and of how much its inhabitants can do for her.
View the Award: There are some things that are not to play