María Elena Llana was born in 1936 in Villa Clara, Cuba, and moved to Havana in 1940. In 1959, after graduating with a degree in journalism, she worked in different areas of the press, fundamentally Prensa Latina. She specialized in cultural reporting in Asia, which allowed her to attend numerous events with artists and intellectuals in Cuba, Europe and Latin America, and to work in Vietnam and China as a cultural correspondent.
This journalist, foreign correspondent, short story writer
and poet began her career in writing with the beginning of the Cuban Revolution and
continues to produce today. As a whole, her work represents many of the themes and styles
that generally characterize prose fiction written on the island since the onset of the Cuban
Revolution in 1959.
Llana published her first collection of short stories in 1965 (La reja). She continued writing during the seventies, but more for herself rather than for publication, as the state favored socialist realist literature over the magical or fantastic during those years. In order to raise her two sons, Llana wrote radio programming, a job she could do from home. Later, thanks to this experience, she would teach radio writing in Cuba and in Mexico. Once back to work, she continued her career as a journalist and short fiction writer.
The debates surrounding what would constitute "revolutionary
culture" posited the tension between the realist/utilitarian and experimental/modernist
conceptualizations of literature for the social project and the role of the author and artist
therein. Llana has successfully negotiated these aesthetic poles throughout the changes in
state cultural politics. Marilyn Bobes (Alguien tiene que llorar, Casa de las Américas' Critics
prize, 1996) asserts: María Elena Llana is "an essential voice in the contemporary Cuban
short story arena." She describes her work as a "configuration of a truly unique and
infrequently visited world, and a rarely found thematic and stylistic coherence together
with an exemplar mastery of the trade..." (Revolución y cultura 1(1998): 61-2).
Her work includes the collections “Casas del Vedado” (1983, Premio de la Crítica), “Castillos de naipes” (1999), “Ronda en el malecón” and “Apenas murmullos” (2005), and “En el limbo” (2009). She continues to write short fiction and has begun writing children’s novels, publishing her first, “Sueños, sustos y sorpresas” in 2012. Llana’s stories have been collected in the anthologies “Casi todo” (2006, Cuba) and “De pájaros invisibles” (2010, España) and other anthologies in Spanish and in translation. Scholars have studied her work, which has been the subject of doctoral theses in Cuba, Spain, United States and México and articles in literary journals such as the La Gaceta de Cuba and the Latin American Literary Review.
Address in Havana highlights
Llana's most critically successful stories, all of which, of interest to this press, have women
protagonists at the center of the convergence of narrative times within a limited space—an
address in Havana—offering an interesting portrait of the construction of female
subjectivity throughout the last fifty years.