Writer Lázaro Alfonso Díaz Cala

"Since I was a teenager, I wrote some cheesy stories and poems, but an advertisement in a shop window on Obispo Street in the capital, in 2000 (at the age of 30), brought me to a literary workshop for the first time, and that's when my life took a complete turn," Lázaro Alfonso Díaz Cala, winner of the Guillermo Vidal short story competition, told 26, after the result was announced on 10 February, at the close of the literary day named after the author of Matarile.

The jury, made up of Eugenio Marrón, Nelton Pérez, and Aida Bahr, unanimously awarded him the prize from a total of 14 entries, among other reasons, "for proposing an exploration of human nature through a literary game."

"Almost everything I know about literature I owe to Jorge Alberto Aguiar Díaz, my first literary advisor. From there, hundreds of poems and stories and several novels have been born", says the winner. He then tells me "Escombros (Rubble) -although it can be read as an independent novel- is the continuation of Donde amores hubo, cuentos quedan, and winner of the Regino Boti, in 2018."

"In the first part, Alberto del Monte Valdés, its protagonist, tells the story of the loves of his life, while trying to write a book of detective stories. The protagonist has an accident and undergoes emergency surgery. It is during this operation that Escombros begins, where Alberto starts a different life, in a wheelchair: depending on his friends and neighbors to fend for himself, learning to walk around his house and carry out his primary needs from his disability, resisting the nostalgia for his loves, for what he has lost. If there is one thing that comforts him, it is that both his friends from the neighborhood and one of those loves never abandon him. And as the months go by, Alberto continues to write crime stories that are interspersed in the chapters".

Although the character is completely fictional, as are the stories, Lázaro Alfonso confessed that he identifies with the way the protagonist thinks and acts. "Escombros could be an erotic novel, a detective story, or simply pages of remembrances; always with touches of humor, set in today's Cuban society. Hopefully, it will capture the interest of the readers who approach it," added the author.

This is the third time that this member of the Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba (UNEAC) has sent his book of short stories Las cartas no siempre lo dicen todo (Letters Don't Always Say Everything) to the Guillermo Vidal competition. "Winning a competition is always a great happiness, a satisfaction for the hours, months and years dedicated to each book. Of course, it also encourages the hope of seeing the printed book circulating in bookshops at some point, to be able to give copies to my daughters and my wife, the three most important people in my life, to dedicate it also to my parents, who must feel proud of me, from their heavenly gaze, and to many friends who pursue my books," said the poet, storyteller, compiler, and a haijin.

Writer Lázaro Alfonso Díaz Cala"I have always seen the Guillermo Vidal prize as one of the most important competitions in the country. I have read some of the winning books, and to be on the list of laureates is a great pleasure. I am also familiar with some of the work of the immortal Guillermo Vidal, by whom I have read several books, among them I remember with great pleasure: Las alcobas profundas (Deep alcoves) and Las manzanas del paraíso (Apples of Paradise). On my bookshelf, waiting to be read, are La saga del perseguido (The saga of the persecuted) and Matarile, which I will review very soon."

"Vidal is one of the leading figures of Cuban narrative, a renovator of the style of storytelling, his prose envelops us and when we start reading it, it is difficult to put the book down without having finished it. Undoubtedly, I was extremely happy to pick up the phone and hear the news that my novel Escombros had won the prize. Triple happiness: to win a competition, to win the 'Guillermo Vidal', and to do so with Escombros (Rubble), one of the books I have most enjoyed writing, which I have revised and reread countless times, until I achieved the text recognized by the very prestigious jury of this competition."

The founder of the haiku project La Luz del Faro has won numerous awards, including the David Award, in 2011, with the novel En cada tiempo y en este lugar (At every time and in this place), for teenagers and young adults. He also won the Regino E. Boti Narrative Prize, in 2018, for Donde amores hubo cuentos quedan (Where once there was love, stories remain); the Rafaela Chacón Nardi Prize, in 2009, for El acoso de mis fantasmas (My ghosts' harassment); and the Adelaida del Mármol Prize, in 2019, for Por distintas aceras (On different sidewalks).

In addition to having published numerous books, he has compiled several volumes of contemporary Cuban narrative such as El silencio de los Cristales, Cuentos sobre la Emigración Cubana (Ediciones Unión 2018), El sabor de la luz, adolescentes cubanos del siglo XXI (José Martí publisher, 2021), as well as others that are in process, by different Cuban publishers.

Lázaro Alfonso Díaz Cala has a degree in Accounting and has worked at the International Financial Bank for almost 19 years. Although he has spent 35 springs in the banking sector, he has not abandoned the passion for literature that he discovered one day, at the genesis of his three decades of life, in front of a certain advertisement in a shop window in the capital's Obispo Street. That is why his words at the end of the interview are not surprising: "I commit myself to continue writing so that each page is better than the last."