Discover our comprehensive guide of the best Cuban authors that will satiate your curiosity about life in the mysterious country of Cuba.
The best Cuban authors often address themes of social and political injustice and the experience of living in a country with a tumultuous history. Cuban literature encompasses a wide range of genres, including fiction, poetry, drama, and nonfiction, and a variety of literary movements, including modernism and magical realism, has influenced it.
Many of the best Cuban writers have used their work to explore and critique the social and political realities of life in Cuba, and their writing has often been shaped by their own experiences of living under authoritarian regimes. Despite the challenges faced by Cuban authors, the country has a vibrant and thriving literary culture, and Cuban literature is widely respected and admired around the world. If you’re interested in history, try our guide with the best history books on audible!
- Here Are The 11 Best Cuban Authors
- 1. Zoé Valdés, 1959 –
- 2. Alejo Carpentier, 1904 – 1980
- 3. Guillermo Cabrera Infante, 1929 – 2005
- 4. Leonardo Padura, 1955 –
- 5. Reinaldo Arenas, 1943 – 1990
- 6. Achy Obejas, 1956 –
- 7. Carlos Franqui, 1921 – 2010
- 8. Eliseo Alberto, 1951 – 2011
- 9. José Lezama Lima, 1910 – 1976
- 10. Lydia Cabrera, 1899 – 1991
- 11. Dulce María Loynaz, 1902 – 1997
Here Are The 11 Best Cuban Authors
1. Zoé Valdés, 1959 –
Zoé Valdés is a Cuban-French writer known for her novels, plays, and films, which often address themes of exile, identity, and the experience of being a woman in Cuba. She began her career as an actress in Cuba but later moved to France, where she began writing and directing. Some of her most notable works include the novels A Greek Love, I am Cuba, and The List of Shipwrecked Books. She also wrote a memoir about her childhood experience in Cuba called Cuba, My Revolution.
Abandoned by her father as a child, Valdés was raised and educated by her mother. Her grandmother was a heavy influence, reading poetry to Valdés regularly. Eventually, at the age of nine, Valdés began to write herself. Her first published poem came out when she was only 19 years old.
“it’s poetry that’s taught me everything I know. Poetry has shown me the world; I owe a debt of gratitude to poetry for the love I feel for nature, the earth, the trees, the ocean.”Zoé Valdés, A Greek Love
2. Alejo Carpentier, 1904 – 1980
Alejo Carpentier was a Cuban novelist, essayist, and musicologist. He is best known for his novels, The Kingdom of This World and Explosion in a Cathedral, both of which explore the themes of history and memory, as well as the influence of the Caribbean on European culture.
Carpentier was a key figure in the Latin American Boom, a literary movement of the 1960s and 1970s that sought to promote Latin American literature and culture on the global stage. In addition to his literary work, Carpentier was also a musicologist and composer, and he wrote extensively on the influence of music on literature and culture. He was also a strong advocate for the rights of indigenous people and was deeply involved in political activism throughout his career.
“Bowed down by suffering and duties, beautiful in the midst of his misery, capable of loving in the face of afflictions and trials, man finds his greatness, his fullest measure, only in The Kingdom of This World.”Alejo Carpentier, Explosion in a Cathedral
3. Guillermo Cabrera Infante, 1929 – 2005
Guillermo Cabrera Infante was a Cuban novelist, essayist, translator, and journalist born in the Oriente province of Cuba. He moved with his parents to Havana at a young age, where he set many of his future works. He is best known for his novel Three Trapped Tigers, which is widely considered a masterpiece of Latin American literature and was included on the list of 100 Best Novels in the Spanish Language published by the Spanish-language newspaper El País.
In addition to his literary work, Cabrera Infante was a translator, journalist, and film critic for several prominent newspapers and magazines. He was a vocal critic of the Cuban government and spent much of his career in exile, first in London and later in Madrid. Despite his criticism of the Cuban regime, he remained deeply connected to the island and its culture. His work is widely recognized as a major contribution to Cuban and Latin American literature.
“If the sleep of reason produces monsters, what does the sleep of unreason produce?”Guillermo Cabrera Infante, Three Trapped Tigers
4. Leonardo Padura, 1955 –
Leonardo Padura is a contemporary Cuban novelist, journalist, and essayist widely recognized as one of the leading figures in contemporary Cuban literature. Born in 1955, Padura has published several highly acclaimed novels and works of nonfiction that have been translated into numerous languages and have garnered numerous awards. His most famous work is the Four Seasons detective series, which follows the adventures of Havana police detective Mario Conde as he investigates crimes in the city.
In addition to his literary work, Padura is also a journalist and essayist, and he has written extensively on a wide range of topics, including Cuban politics, culture, and history. With his engaging and thought-provoking writing, Padura has made a significant contribution to the world of literature and has earned a reputation as one of the most exciting and vital voices in contemporary Cuban literature.
“He checked his parachute and launched himself into the Sea of Sarcasm.”Leonardo Padura, Four Seasons
5. Reinaldo Arenas, 1943 – 1990
Reinaldo Arenas was a Cuban novelist, poet, and playwright born in 1943 and died in 1990. He is best known for his semi-autobiographical novel Before Night Falls, which tells the story of his life in Cuba and his experiences as a gay man under the oppressive regime of Fidel Castro. Arenas was a prolific and widely acclaimed writer, and his work has been translated into numerous languages and has won numerous awards.
In addition to his writing, Arenas was also an activist and a vocal critic of the Cuban government, and he spent much of his career in exile, first in the United States and later in Spain. Despite his challenges, Arenas remained deeply committed to his art and activism, and his writing continues to inspire and engage readers worldwide.
“The difference between the communist system and the capitalist system is that, even if they both give us a kick in the ass, in the communist system they give it to you and you have to applaud, and in the capitalist system they give it to you and you can shout.”Reinaldo Arenas, Before Night Falls
6. Achy Obejas, 1956 –
Achy Obejas was born in Havana, Cuba, in 1956 and immigrated to the United States with her family in 1964. Many of her writings reflect her struggles to fit in. She’s the author of several novels, including Days of Awe, Memory Mambo, and The Tower of the Antilles, all of which explore themes of identity, immigration, and the experience of being a Cuban in the United States.
Obejas is also a journalist and has worked as a reporter, editor, and translator for a number of prominent publications, including the Chicago Tribune and the San Francisco Chronicle. Obejas has worked as a translator, a stringer, and a cultural writer. She has been awarded a National Endowment for the Arts creative writing fellowship. In 1998, she won the Peter Lisagor Award for political reporting.
“Offspring were a joy or a shame, but still the crown of their elders, nature’s unpredictable creatures.”Achy Obejas, Days of Awe
7. Carlos Franqui, 1921 – 2010
Carlos Franqui was a Cuban writer, journalist, and political activist. He wrote Camilo Cienfuegos, a biography of the Cuban revolution. He was also known for his work as a journalist and editor, and he played a key role in the development of independent media in Cuba during the 1950s and 1960s. Franqui was a member of the July 26 Movement, a group that sought to overthrow the Cuban government, and he participated in the Cuban Revolution that brought Fidel Castro to power.
After the revolution, Franqui became an editor and journalist and worked on several publications, including the newspaper Revolución, one of the most important independent newspapers in Cuba at the time. In the 1970s, Franqui became a vocal critic of the Castro regime and was exiled, first in Spain and later in Italy. Despite his challenges, Franqui remained deeply committed to his work as a writer and journalist, and his work continues to be widely respected and admired.
“I despise the kind of existence that clings to the miserly trifles of comfort and self-interest.”Fidel Castro, in a letter to Carlos Franqui
8. Eliseo Alberto, 1951 – 2011
Born in Cuba to Mexican parents, Eliseo Alberto was heavily influenced by Cuban culture. The themes of Christian morality, including punishment, salvation, and forgiveness, frequently appeared throughout Alberto’s works. He spent most of his emphasis on personalities from Havana, his hometown. One of his most famous books is One Night Within the Night. Among his works set in Havana are José’s Fable and Eternity Finally Begins on a Monday, about the life of a lion trainer named Tartufo who mourns the loss of the lion named Goldwyn Mayer.
After a series of political events, Alberto fled to Mexico in exile during the Cuban revolution. He was a fierce critic of the Cuban government, writing about how the Cuban government had requested him to spy on his father and Cuban exiles. Alberto was a novelist, poet, and screenwriter for film and television. He taught in film schools in Cuba, Mexico, and the United States, such as the Sundance Institute.
“When he went outside, dazed by the echoes of his dream, the tiger was pacing the roof of the trailer.”Eliseo Alberto, One Night Within the Night
9. José Lezama Lima, 1910 – 1976
José Lezama Lima was born very close to Havana, inside of a Columbia military encampment, as his father was a colonel. Lima is best known for his novel Paradiso, considered a masterpiece of Latin American literature and widely studied and admired by literary critics and scholars.
Lezama Lima was a leading figure in the Cuban literary scene. It was a member of the “Group of Thirteen,” a group of Cuban writers and intellectuals who sought to promote Cuban literature and culture. In addition to his literary work, Lezama Lima was also a cultural critic and intellectual. He wrote extensively on various topics, including literature, art, and philosophy. Despite the challenges he faced due to his opposition to the Cuban government, Lezama Lima remained deeply committed to his work as a writer and made a significant contribution to the world of literature.
“He already had that insouciance, that indecipherable indifference of those who are going to die a few months later.”Eliseo Alberto, One Night Within the Night
10. Lydia Cabrera, 1899 – 1991
Lydia Cabrera was an acclaimed Cuban writer for her research into Afro-Cuban folklore. In the twentieth century, Cabrera became one of the world’s leading authors in the field. Her work is often viewed as the continuation of the study of Afro-Cubans initiated by Fernando Ortiz. But she also wrote about other cultural phenomena, including religion. One of her most intriguing novels is El Monte.
Lydia Cabrera was born in Havana, Cuba, to a prominent family. Her father, Raimundo Cabrera, was an influential lawyer and writer. His pro-independence political views influenced her early life. During her early years, she was taught at home and could only attend school briefly. However, she was able to complete her secondary education, and by the age of eighteen, she published her first article in Diario de la Marina.
“It has been my purpose to offer specialists, with all modesty and the greatest fidelity, a material that has not passed through the dangerous filter of interpretation, and to confront them with the living documents that I have been lucky enough to find.”Lydia Cabrera, El Monte
11. Dulce María Loynaz, 1902 – 1997
Dulce Maria Loynaz was a Cuban poet and author born in Havana, Cuba, on December 10, 1902. Her parents were a wealthy and prominent family, and her father was the famous General Enrique Loynaz del Castillo. The family was extremely patriotic, naturally. Loynaz grew up around music, surrounded by lush and lavish gardens. Dulce Maria was exposed to various arts and wrote many poems during her teen years. Her first published poem was in a newspaper, La Nacion. Later she traveled to Turkey and Mexico.
Loynaz ceased writing poetry after the 1959 revolution in Cuba, but not before writing Absolute Solitude: Selected Poems. During her later years, she received critical acclaim for her work. She was awarded the Miguel de Cervantes Prize in 1992 and a Doctorate in Civil Rights from the University of Havana.
She was also a member of the Real Academia Espanola de la Lengua. She served as the Cuban Academy of Languages president until she died in 1997. Looking for some thought-provoking literature? Check out our round-up of the best Hemmingway books!
“If you love me, love me whole, not by zones of light or shadow…”Dulce María Loynaz, Absolute Solitude: Selected Poems