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Leonardo Padura and his alter ego Mario Conde

Leonardo Padura and his alter ego Mario Conde

Padura was born in the outlying Havana district of Mantilla where he still lives. He studied Spanish American Literature at the University of Havana before he published his first novel, Fiebre de Caballos [Horse Fever], in 1983. Padura was not always a novelist. He spent a considerable part of his life as a journalist, writing for the cultural magazine El Caimán Barbudo and the newspaper Juventud Rebelde where his articles were highly anticipated by his faithful readers. Padura’s skill as a journalist—writing about diverse figures from the famous pimp during the republican period Alberto Yarini to the extraordinary conga player Chano Pozo—helped him in developing his complex characters.

Padura has written many different kinds of novels, from love stories to historical fiction. Two of his most famous novels, La historia de mi vida [The Story of My Life]and El hombre que amaba los perros [The Man who Loved Dogs] represent his attempt at the latter. While La historia de mi vida presents the life of the Cuban poet José María Heredia, El hombre que amaba los perros centers on the true story of Ramón Mercader, Trotsky’s murderer, who lived the last years of his life in Cuba. His latest book, El hombre que amaba los perros (2009), has been well received among readers and critics alike, garnering several awards in Italy, France, and Cuba.

It is impossible to talk about Padura’s work without discussing his most notable character, Mario Conde, a detective who differs significantly from the official public image that has prevailed of Cuban policemen. Conde is slovenly, often drunk, and discontent in his career, as he had always wanted to be a writer. But Conde is more than just a simple character. He is, according to Padura, a reflection of the material and spiritual hardships that his generation has had to endure. You can read Conde’s story in one of Padura’s many detective novels, including Pasado perfecto [Past Perfect] (1991), Vientos de Cuaresma [Lent Winds] (1994), Máscaras [Masks] (1997), Paisaje de otoño [Autumn Scenery] (1998), Adiós Hemingway [Goodbye Hemingway] (2001) and La neblina del ayer [The Mist of the Past] (2005).

From a journalist to a well-known author, Leonardo Padura is an authentic Cuban who loves to sit down and talk. Whether defending the right for Cuban writers and artists in the face of censorship or defending his pet baseball team, the Industriales, Padura is an articulate intellectual.

January 2015 This article formed part of the January 2014 issue of What’s On Havana The definitive monthly travel & culture guide to Havana Download our current issue of What’s On Havana, your definitive travel, culture and entertainment guide for all things happening in Havana, Cuba’s bustling and enigmatic capital city. We include features from around Cuba written by the best international travel writers covering Cuba. Our monthly online digital magazine is also available in Spanish and French.

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