Daína Chaviano

Daína Chaviano (Spanish: [daˈina tʃaˈβjano]) (born in Havana, Cuba, in 1957)[1] is a Cuban-American writer of French and Asturian descent[2] living in the United States since 1991.

Daína Chaviano
Daína Chaviano.jpg
Born (1957-02-19) 19 February 1957 (age 65)
Havana, Cuba
GenreFantasy, science fiction, mainstream, historical fiction
Notable worksThe Island of Eternal Love
RelativesCésar Évora (cousin)

She is considered one of the three most important female fantasy and science fiction writers in the Spanish language, along with Angélica Gorodischer (Argentina) and Elia Barceló (Spain), forming the so-called “feminine trinity of science fiction in Ibero-America.”[3]

In Cuba, she published several science fiction and fantasy books, becoming the most renowned and best-selling author in those genres in Cuban literature.[4] Since leaving the island, she has distinguished herself with a series of novels incorporating historical and more contemporary matters as well as mythological and fantastic elements.


She was born in Havana, the first of four children of an economist father, and a mother with two Ph.D.: one in Philosophy and Letters, and the other in Psychology.[5][6]

When she had barely begun her university studies, she won the first science fiction competition ever organized in Cuba with her short story collection Los mundos que amo (The Worlds I Love), in 1979. After the book was published (1980), the main story was adapted and published as a photonovel in 1982, selling 200,000 copies in 3 months, an unprecedented fact that started her popularity as an author.[7] The plot - almost the same in the short story and in its photonovel version - has been considered "an editorial phenomenon" that "questioned the hierarchical structures that the governing institutions of the revolutionary culture imposed in the literary field as early as 1960".[8] This sales record "broke with an editorial logic that considered science fiction as a minor genre."[8] Furthermore, "Daína Chaviano claimed literary genres established and controlled mostly by male writers who arrived with the Revolution - that is, writers who did not take part in the processes of the pre-1959 revolutionary struggle - a recognition that placed science fiction written by women, in feminine, in the Cuban editorial map and in the space of national culture".[8]

After earning a bachelor's degree in English Language and Literature at the University of Havana, she established the first science fiction literary workshop in her country, which she named “Oscar Hurtado” in honor of the father of that genre on the Caribbean island.[9]

In 1991 she left Cuba, establishing residency in the United States, where she worked as a translator, columnist, and editor.

In 1998 she achieved international recognition when she was awarded the Azorín Prize for Best Novel in Spain for El hombre, la hembra y el hambre. This work forms part of her series «The Occult Side of Havana», together with Casa de juegos, Gata encerrada, and La isla de los amores infinitos (The Island of Eternal Love, Riverhead Books, 2008). The series has been described as “the most coherent novelistic project of its generation, indispensable for understanding the social psychology and spiritual vicissitudes of the Cuban people.”[10]

The Island of Eternal Love has been published in 26 languages, making it the most widely translated Cuban novel of all time.[11] In 2007 the novel was awarded the gold medal at the Florida Book Awards, in the category Best Book in Spanish Language.[12]

In 2004 Chaviano was guest of honor at the 25th International Conference for the Fantastic in the Arts (ICFA) in the United States. It was the first time that honor had ever been conferred on a Spanish-language writer.[13]

In November 2014, she was also the guest of honor during the University Book Fair in Tabasco (Mexico), where she received the Malinalli National Award for the Promotion of Arts, Human Rights and Cultural Diversity, which until then had only received figures of Mexican culture and society. It was the first time this award was given to an international figure.[14]

Her short story collection Extraños testimonios was published in 2017. In an interview, Chaviano classified the genre of this work as "Caribbean Gothic," as it brings together "elements of horror, absurdity, eroticism, and a certain dose of humor à la Cortázar, amidst tropical and sunny environments, specifically in the Caribbean."[15]

In 2019 her historical thriller Los hijos de la Diosa Huracán was published by Grijalbo, the Spanish imprint of Penguin Random House. The novel, which required more than a decade of research work, recreates and rescues the Taínos' world, following the trail and paying homage to the legacy of the main Caribbean indigenous culture. Hence the importance of Taino mythology in the novel, especially the symbolism of their three main goddesses: Atabey, Guabancex, and Iguanaboína.[16] In 2020 the novel was awarded the gold medal at the Florida Book Awards 2019 contest, in the category Best Book in Spanish Language, making Chaviano the only writer to twice receive the award in that category.[17]

Chaviano has been a guest lecturer and visiting author at several universities and colleges, like Denison University[18] (2007), Florida International University[19] (2014), Miami Dade College[20] (2016), University of North Georgia[21] (2017), and others.

She is the cousin of the Cuban actor César Évora.

Literary influencesEdit

Her literary influences derive fundamentally from the Celtic world, from diverse mythologies, and from the principal epics of ancient peoples. Among these sources one can find the Arthurian cycle; Greek, Roman, Egyptian, pre-Columbian and Afro-Cuban myths; and humankind's first epics, dating back to prehistory, such as the Epic of Gilgamesh, the Mahabharata, the Popol Vuh, the Odyssey, and other similar works.[22][23]

The author has observed that she has no affinity whatsoever with Cuban literature of any period.[23] Chaviano has stated that, with the exception of authors such as Manuel Mujica Laínez and Mario Vargas Llosa,[24] her only point of contact with Latin America is pre-Columbian mythology.

The author has said that her passion for Anglo-Saxon literature was always so strong that, when she entered the university, she decided to major in English literature so that she could read many of these authors in their original language.[25]

In general terms, her contemporary influences come from European and Anglophone authors like Margaret Atwood, Milan Kundera, Ursula K. Le Guin, Ray Bradbury, Anaïs Nin, J. R. R. Tolkien, and William Shakespeare, among others.[23]


Daína Chaviano's works have been described as “bold experiments that break down the boundaries between genres.”[9] Her style is characterized by:

  • highly poetic prose, indebted to cinematic imagery, which leaves the reader with the impression that s/he has seen, rather than read, a story;
  • a fondness for the magical or fantastic anecdote, which nonetheless lends a high degree of realism to the narrative, thanks to a well-grounded knowledge of the religious and mythological elements of Celtic, Christian, Afro-Cuban, pre-Columbian, and Greco-Roman cultures;
  • several interpretive levels and a plethora of hidden meanings in her books, whether they be fantasy, science fiction, or realism.[10]

Works in EnglishEdit

  • 2019: "Dolores" (short story, trans. by Marilyn G. Miller), in Island in the Light / Isla en la luz (bilingüal anthology of literary works inspired by contemporary Cuban art), ed. by L. Padura, W. Guerra & C. Garaicoa, Miami: tra.Publishing.
  • 2017: "Accursed Lineage" (short story, trans. by Matthew David Goodwin), in Latin@ Rising: An Anthology of Latin@ Science Fiction and Fantasy, ed. by Matthew David Goodwin, Texas: Wings Press.
  • 2008: The Island of Eternal Love (trans. Andrea Labinger). New York: Riverhead Books-Penguin Group.[26]
  • 2003: "The Annunciation" (short story, trans. by Juan Carlos Toledano), in Andrea L. Bell & Yolanda Molina-Gavilán (eds), Cosmos Latinos: An Anthology of Science Fiction from Latin America and Spain, Connecticut: Wesleyan University Press.

Works in SpanishEdit

Outside Cuba:

  • 2019: Los hijos de la Diosa Huracán (novel). Grijalbo, Spain.
  • 2018: Fábulas de una abuela extraterrestre (novel). Huso, Spain.
  • 2017: El abrevadero de los dinosaurios (short stories). Huso, Spain.
  • 2017: Extraños testimonios (short stories). Huso, Spain.
  • 2007: Historias de hadas para adultos (novellas). Minotauro, Spain.
  • 2006: La isla de los amores infinitos (novel). Grijalbo, Spain.
  • 2005: El abrevadero de los dinosaurios (short stories). Nueva Imagen, Mexico.
  • 2004: Los mundos que amo (short novel). Alfaguara, Colombia.
  • 2003: Fábulas de una abuela extraterrestre (novel). Oceano, Mexico.
  • 2001: País de dragones (short stories). Espasa Juvenil, Spain.
  • 2001: Gata encerrada (novel). Planeta, Spain.
  • 1999: Casa de juegos (novel). Planeta, Spain.
  • 1998: El hombre, la hembra y el hambre (novel). Planeta, Spain.
  • 1994: Confesiones eróticas y otros hechizos (poetry). Betania, Spain.

In Cuba:

  • 1990: El abrevadero de los dinosaurios (short stories).
  • 1989: La anunciación (film script).
  • 1988: Fábulas de una abuela extraterrestre (novel).
  • 1986: Historias de hadas para adultos (novellas).
  • 1983: Amoroso planeta (short stories).
  • 1980: Los mundos que amo (short stories).

Awards and recognitionsEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Encyclopædia Britannica. Accessed April 9, 2015.
  2. ^ Fernández, Xurxo, "Cuba en sueño celta", O Correo Galego, 17 junio de 1999. Accessed July 22, 2017.
  3. ^ Piña, Begoña. “Daína Chaviano, la memoria y la salvación del futuro”. Qué Leer, January 9, 2006, p. 75.
  4. ^ Toledano, Juan C. "Daína Chaviano", in Darrell B. Lockhart (ed.), Latin American Science Fiction Writers: An A-to-Z Guide, Greenwood Press, 2004, pp. 54-55.
  5. ^ Fernández, Manuel and Trimberger, Michael. "Ecos de un pasado que se niega a morir". Caribe: Revista de Cultura y Literatura/Caribbean: Journal of Culture and Literature, Vol. 12, No. 1, Summer 2009, pp. 71-80. Marquette University & University of North Florida.
  6. ^ Moreno, Sarah. "Daína Chaviano: sus pasiones y fantasías". El Nuevo Herald. Suplemento de Artes y Letras. April 29, 2007.
  7. ^ "Cuba News / Noticias - CubaNet News". www.cubanet.org (in Spanish). Retrieved 2019-04-26.
  8. ^ a b c Porbén, Pedro Pablo. "Fotonovela, ciencia ficción y revolución en Los mundos que amo." Revista Iberoamericana, Vol. LXXVIII, No. 238-239, January–June 2012, 225-243.
  9. ^ a b Herrera-Mulligan, Michelle. When Sci-Fi Meets Sexy. Críticas Magazine, January/February 2004, pp. 24-6.
  10. ^ a b Literatura cubana en el exilio "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2007-08-22. Retrieved 2007-07-31.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link). Accessed July 10, 2008.
  11. ^ Fuentes, Yvette. Anthurium: A Caribbean Studies Journal, Volume 2, Issue 2, Fall 2008, ISSN 1547-7150
  12. ^ Miami author wins gold The Miami Herald, March 10, 2007, pp. 5E.
  13. ^ "Here There Be Dragons: The Global Fantastic", Conference Booklet, ICFA Guests of Honor 1980-2004, p. 39
  14. ^ 7a Feria del Libro Internacional UJAT Villahermosa, Tabasco, archived from the original on 2021-12-14, retrieved 2019-12-02
  15. ^ Jurado, Cristina. El gótico caribeño de Daína Chaviano, Supersonic, Abril 26, 2017
  16. ^ Miquel, Mariasun (2019-06-24). "Daína Chaviano: "Estamos saturados de tragedias y distopías"". Nokton Magazine (in Spanish). Retrieved 2019-12-02.
  17. ^ "2019 Florida Book Awards winners announced". Florida State University News. 2020-03-03. Retrieved 2020-03-11.
  18. ^ "COLLEGE NOTES". The Columbus Dispatch. Retrieved 2019-09-24.
  19. ^ Cuban Research Institute, Florida International University (2014-09-23). "The Dangerous Games of Fantasy, Lecture by Daína Chaviano". Cuban Research Institute Events.
  20. ^ "The Miami Book Fair @ Miami Dade College Announces 2016 Miami Writers Institute". MDC News. Retrieved 2019-09-24.
  21. ^ "UNG reads 'Bless Me Ultima'". University of North Georgia. Retrieved 2019-09-24.
  22. ^ Moreno, Sarah. "Daína Chaviano, sus pasiones y fantasías". El Nuevo Herald, 29 abril, 2007, p. 3D.
  23. ^ a b c Mayor Marsán, Maricel. ”Daína Chaviano: Entre la ciencia ficción y lo sobrenatural”. Revista Baquiana, año VI, Nº 33/34, enero/abril 2005, pp. 193-9.
  24. ^ Triff, Soren. ”La maldición de escribir en Miami”. Catálogo de Letras, Miami. Número 13, 1998, pp. 6-7.
  25. ^ Oliva, José. "Daína Chaviano apuesta por la literatura surrealista". Diario Las Américas. Miami, 13 junio 1999, p. 11-B.
  26. ^ Laura Dail Literary Agency News Archived 2008-05-14 at the Wayback Machine.

External linksEdit