“Being honest is my motto”
“Being honest is my motto”

The International Book Fair dedicates its 28th edition to Eduardo Heras León, an author who knows about honesty and uprightness. Through personal experience, he knows about the spiritual means´ capability of his own and others, especially when acting as a protective net preventing an outright fall into the vacuum: “literature was always faithful companion in the worst moments, helping me to be forever true to the guiding principles of my life.”

These were the acknowledgement words of this author, beloved and respected by so many writers and readers, upon receiving the 2014 National Literature Award; a welcomed celebration by the same fair that today honors his life as well as his literary and humanitarian endeavor.

Born in 1940 in Havana, this shoe shiner boy teaming up with his brothers to contribute to the household income of a home where his sick father was almost bedridden, found in improvised stanzas – listened to by radio in the company of his family – the Ariadna thread leading him to love the belles lettres in a quite fruitful marriage. This lofty raconteur, master of literary generations, started with verses written in bleak nights as if knowing from the innocence of those years, that poetry can take us everywhere.

Dreams fluttered and with them, the promise to one day become a writer to “publish the books you never could my beloved old man, to  always be proud of me”. Today, after years dwelling in more light than shadows – according to his ability to turn opportunistic avatars into virtue and fortitude; growing in Martí´s maxima “under the grass” and also above it – this is a true homage to a long ago accomplished offer.

Also going by el Chino Heras nickname, it isn´t easy to find his books even among used ones. No one let´s go of a book signed by him, not even those re-edited to please readers and Cuban culture as well; facts not words. What he has to say to others from his intense sincerity as backbone of all his writings, matters; “If not so, if sincerity had not been always present in my work, nourishing it, do you believe an imprint would remain in the literary history of my country?”

Even knowing the world is a common place Heras does not accept a writer can be so with his back turned against honesty. “There might be some but that is not my case. I always followed Marti’s words in saying that to be unique one had to be sincere. And that is my motto. To be sincere of course is sometimes ‘a strong discipline exercise’ as Villena used to say, an exercise costing sweat and even tears”.

For this music and piano lover placing himself as a teacher first, then writer and afterwards journalist, there is a way valid for the three professions to daily exercise a meeting with the timely word. “Reading and writing” he says, “the rest is just work with the words”.

Together with the incredible feat of founding the course of Narrative Techniques in the midst of the Special Period –  the Universidad para todos (University for all) television program – followed by the one dedicated to Literary Theory with the contribution of such outstanding figures as Francisco López Sacha and Rogelio Rodríguez Coronel among other authors – Heras León is also mentor of the Onelio Jorge Cardoso Literary Education Center, a cultural institution dedicated to the education of novel writers that, in its twenty years of ongoing effort contributes to forge the unconditional pedagogue posture.

In his own words about the students of the center: “the books we fail to write are the ones they do write”:, adding that to him if they did not get to be writers they are today editors, promoters, consultants and above all, best human beings.

He cheerfully talks about his books that, even sold out and thus unavailable for many years, will return this February honoring his literature. “Three new books are to be presented though not fiction: the first is El libro de los elogios, a selection of texts dedicated to pay homage to Cuban and some foreign authors; the second El libro de las presentaciones, a selection of books of my writing during 40 years and a third book as a selection of interviews to me in Cuba and abroad. Besides, also re-editions of La Guerra tuvo seis nombres, Los pasos en la hierba, Cuentos Completos, Desde la platea, Dolce vita.

Though not dismissing the idea of a personal homage in the Book Fair, he did not expect such news. On learning about this fact he immediately thought about his father, who took with him that promise his 12 years´ old son made moved by the soon to be absolute goodbye.

Today, on bestowing an everyday tribute upon Eduardo Heras León during the fair, his father wherever he may be, smiles happy and proud of his boy that dreamed about literature, the same one Cuba´s most important literary feast presently distinguishes and acclaims as he justly deserves.

By: Madeleine Sautié Rodríguez