Repeating Islands

Posted by: ivetteromero | January 10, 2010


Maira Landa’s Concierto para Leah

El Nuevo Día reports that Maira Landa’s unpublished novel Concierto para Leah [Concert for Leah] was among the top five finalists of the 2009 Premio Planeta. This contest is among the most prestigious for literature written in Spanish and certainly the most coveted, awarding 601,000 euros for the first prize and 150,000 for the second. A total of 492 unpublished texts from 26 countries participated in the competition. Landa’s novel was the only entry sent from Puerto Rico. Landa decided to send her novel to the competition without many expectations and, to her great surprise, landed in fifth place. Although she did not win the first prize, she says that she feels greatly rewarded to have gotten so far, competing against almost 500 writers, many of which are seasoned, published writers.

Concierto para Leah follows a musical format of four movements and a coda to tell the story of a young woman with a prodigious talent for the violin, whose goal is to become concert violinist. Landa explains: “In 1939, Leah and her family leave Hamburg to travel to Cuba on a boat full of Jews, who, like them, were seeking escape from the Nazis. The Cuban Government forces them to return to Europe and the Felton family arrives in Paris. When the Nazis invade France, they are sent to Auschwitz, where her family, her illusions, and her violin disappear. [But] memories stay with her until the end of her days, along with the number tattooed on her arm. Forty years later, a famous pianist, raised in Puerto Rico and residing in Paris, begins a harrowing search that will lead him to discover something devastating and to understand the origin of his virtuosity.”

Maira Landa was born in Havana, Cuba and has lived in San Juan, Puerto Rico since 1965. Although she worked in the business sphere for many years, she has always been an avid reader. She completed a master’s degree in creative writing at the University of the Sacred Heart (USC) in 2004. In 2006, she won first prize for short story and third prize for poetry in the literary competition Manuel Joglar Cacho, which is sponsored by the Institute of Puerto Rican culture. She also hosted the radio program “Tardes de tertulia,” where she interviewed numerous writers. Landa has also collaborated with the literary magazine Letras Nuevas and with books reviews for the newspaper El Nuevo Día.