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Detective Fiction in Cuban Society and Culture

Stephen Wilkinson

This book examines Cuban society through a study of its detective fiction and more particularly contemporary Cuban society through the novels of the author and critic, Leonardo Padura Fuentes.
The author traces the development of Cuban detective writing in the light of the work of twentieth century Western European literary critics and philosophers including Raymond Williams, Antonio Gramsci, Terry Eagleton, Roland Barthes, Jean Paul Sartre, Michel Foucault, Jean François Lyotard and Jean Baudrillard in order to gain a better understanding of the social and historical context in which this genre emerged.
The analysis includes discussion of the broader philosophical, political and historical issues raised by the Cuban revolution. The book concludes that the study of this popular genre in Cuba is of crucial importance to the scholar who wishes to reach as full an understanding of the social dynamics within that society as possible.


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4. Bad black men and comical Chinese: the Cuban detective narrative 1915–1959 81


Chapter 4 Bad black men and comical Chinese: The Cuban detective narrative 1915–1959 In order to insert the work of Cuba’s detective writers in general and Leonardo Padura Fuentes in particular within a national tradition, I feel it necessary to examine the manifestation of the genre in Cuba prior to the revolution, a period which has been neglected by academics both inside and outside the island. Contrary to the established view, there was a relatively highly developed cultivation of the detective narrative in Cuba before revolution, and it is possible to argue that the post-revolutionary boom in the genre was an extension of a tradition stretching back to the early part of the twentieth century. In this chapter, I examine the reasons why academics have overlooked this period in the past and make a survey of the genre as it developed prior to the guerrillas coming to power. In her overview of pre-revolutionary Cuban detective writing Amelia S. Simpson states that until 1971 ‘there was virtually no cultivation of detective fiction in Cuba’: Although translations of works from Europe and the United States had been popular since at least the 1920s, the genre remained essentially an imported model, a narrative form that was widely consumed yet scarcely practised nationally. (1990: 97) In reaching such a conclusion, Simpson was perhaps influenced by post-revolutionary Cuban critics who play down the pre- revolutionary significance of the genre. She refers to Luis Rogelio Nogueras who, in an article first published in 1978, states...

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