23. ilb 06. – 16.09.2023
Portrait Ángel Santiesteban
© Hartwig Klappert

Ángel Santiesteban

Ángel Santiesteban was born in 1966 in Havana. In his homeland, he is highly respected and was awarded, among other prizes, the Premio Alejo Carpentier by the Cuban Book Institute (2001) and the Premio Casa de las Américas (2006), until he was noticed by the Communist government due to his oppositionist blog »Los hijos que nadie quiso« (tr:The Children Nobody Wanted). Living under constant threat, in 2007 he was banned from publishing and in late 2017 was sentenced to five years in prison. The International Society for Human Rights viewed the accusations of trespassing and physical assault as a ploy by the one-party regime. Santiesteban was incarcerated at the notorious Valle Grande prison, among others, and went on two hunger strikes. The advocacy of the Writers-in-Prison-Committee of PEN International as well as diplomatic efforts by the Federal Foreign Office were integral to securing his conditional release.

»Wölfe in der Nacht« (2017, tr: Wolves in the Night), made available by Amir Valle and brilliantly translated into German by Thomas Brovot, is a publishing anomaly in the sense that some of its sixteen stories have not yet been published in the original Spanish version. This includes a story that conjures up the trauma of the oft-repressed Cuban intervention in the Angolan civil war that the Cuban institute for culture forced Santiesteban to remove from his book »Sueño de un día de verano« (1998; tr: A Summer Day’s Dream). The author now candidly addresses his self-censorship in a metafictional passage: The protagonist of an outlawed novel manuscript devours the original text and thus also himself out of fear of censorship manipulation. The reader witnesses the logical fate of the oppositionist, who can now only write for himself and his desk drawers, but not even in the supposed refuge of his own mind and imagination is he safe from pursuit by the government. Other stories vividly depict everyday fights for survival, usually with a first-person narrator: a woman who prostitutes herself for the whole neighborhood, two starving friends who illegally slaughter a cow on a rainy night, prisoners who must endure arbitrary harassment and brutality. With his realism and intrinsically political focus on description, Santiesteban reveals the moral impoverishment in a system that oppresses and silences free thinkers. The German-speaking feuilleton press has recognized the volume as a unique and stylistically savvy literary glimpse into modern Cuba.

Santiesteban lives in Havana.


Sueño de un día de verano
Havanna, 1998
Los hijos que nadie quiso
Letras Cubanas
Havanna, 2001
Dichosos los que lloran
Fondo Editorial Casa de las Américas
Havanna, 2006
El verano en que Dios dormía
Neo Club
Miami, 2014
Wölfe in der Nacht
S. Fischer
Frankfurt a. M., 2017
[Ü: Thomas Brovot]