Before the arrival of telenovelas and iPods, Cuban cigar rollers (torcedores) used to be entertained by having someone read the newspaper or a book to them.
Legend has it that one of their favorite books was Alexandre Dumas’ Le comte de montecristo (The Count of Montecristo).
And this is why the famous cigar is named the Montecristo.
It’s a great story! Are the workers no longer read to?
Not that I’m aware of. I think most listen to music on their mp3 players (at least that is what one of the articles I got a photo from said). A shame in a way.
It is a shame. Being read to is one of the great joys of life.
How interesting! Maybe I could get someone to read to me while I make dinner. He or she could hop up on the counter and take me to another world while I chop and dice. 🙂
Wonderful idea! What would you like read to you? A crime novel as you chop away? Or Anna Karinina to keep you engaged for long periods?
Definitely a crime novel. Should make the food nice and spicy. 😉
So interesting. I think being read to would be a great way to pass the time at work. I guess all the Cuban cigars aren’t rolled on the thighs of beautiful Mulatto women– so goes the legend.
The thighs of women! I never heard that, haha!
Oh yes. Ask any cigar smoking man
So cool! I love hearing books read, and sadly, I don’t read aloud as much as I used to. It’s tough in a studio with a husband. Plus the cats attack me too. 🙂
You know, I’ve never read this book! Not sure how it slipped by, but I added it to my to-read list. Saw the movie a few times and I love the story.
We all know what tough critics your cats are. Perhaps they prefer poetry.
I haven’t read it either, Britt. Another on the to read list.
Maybe Letizia will read it aloud to us some time. 🙂
I will read it to you both, Britt and Tim, with pleasure!
This is a great story! We have always read books aloud to each other. First it was parents reading to children, and now my kids read to me! This last Christmas my daughter read me Terry Pratchett’s Monstrous Regiment. But the idea that they would spare a person to entertain the workers is a surprise to me. My great grandmother was orphaned early and worked in a cigarette factory in Rochester, NY., rolling cigarettes by hand. They made their own entertainment. She said the girls used to find cockroaches crawling across their work tables and for fun they would roll them up into cigarettes!
Okay, first of all, I love that your children read to you. That is so charming.
Second of all, cockroaches in cigarettes!! Your great grandmother must have been a character indeed.
I wish I had known her–all I have is the stories, and hers is full of hard knocks, but she could still pull a prank and laugh about it.
Hmmm. Me thinks a good cigar (Montecristo of course) would go well with Dumas. That means he’ll have to wait until Spring. 🙂
A good pairing, right? 🙂
I love thinking of all the Cuban workers rolling the cigars but lost in their imagination of the Count of Montecristo stories…. Forgetting the reality of life…like we were all when we read Dumas! I remember reading it in the metro in Paris and so lost in the story that I missed my stop to go to work!! Well worth it…
I’ve always loved this story of you in the metro. It’s true, Dumas is a good choice as one can get so lost in the storytelling!
Interesting.We didn’t go to a cigar factory while in Cuba a couple of years ago, but have always heard of the readers. It soothed them and helped pass the time. Besides, many couldn’t read. Tampa, Florida has a Cuban cigar history and their museum in Ybor City (mostly Cuban) shows pictures of the readers. I didn’t know about their favorite book or why the Montecristo cigar was named such. My husband will be going back to Cuba mid Feb for another photographic workshop.
The history of the readers is so interesting; I would love to see that museum one day in Florida. I haven’t been to Cuba yet but hope to go soon. In the meantime, I will enjoy Ron’s beautiful photos.
By the way, I really liked the book.
Dumas knew how to tell a story, right? I prefered The Three Mousketeers but have merit.
Good choice indeed. The hero of Monte Cristo was inspired by the life of Dumas’s father, the son of Marie Cessette Dumas, a black slave from Saint-Domingue (modern-day Haiti) and wife of a French nobleman, Alexandre Antoine Davy, the Marquis de Pailleterie who sold his wife and children back into slavery when he learned of an inheritance back in France. When he discovered the inheritance truly was his, he pawned the son back, had him brought to France and turned him into something of a nobleman himself.
The first time he wrote a story inspired by the life of his father was in his novel Georges, however the public were said to be outraged due to the hero of the book being portrayed as a coloured man, so Dumas is said to have written The Count of Monte Cristo in response to that outrage (and no doubt due to his own outrage) changing the colour of the skin of his protagonist.
Tom Reiss writes about it in his excellent biography Black Count – Glory, Revolution, Betrayal and the Real Count of Monte Cristo.
Love that they listened to these adventures in Cuba!
I’ve just finished reading Margarita Engle’s excellent book The Poet-Slave of Cuba, A Biography of Juan Francisco Manzano, once freed, in his adult years, he used to pull great crowds of people who came to listen to him recite his poetry.
I am familiar with the story behind the inspiration but haven’t read The Poet-slave of Cuba. That sounds interesting, thank you (and for the tweet!).
Well that’s an interesting origin story! I would’ve imagined that they named it as such because it sounded fancy, not because they actually enjoyed the book.
That said, I don’t remember the last time someone read a book to me. I kinda miss it. 😦
Perhaps next time you are at work you can ask someone to read a book to you!
Aha, now I have the inside scoop on the cigar world! Who knew?! Well, now I do 🙂 Happy Sunday, sweet Letizia!
Now you have this fun little story to share with others 🙂
Oh totally! I usually leave your posts with some new fact about the literary world. And I always leave your posts with a smile 😀
What a great story – and a much more sociable way of passing that time – I wonder if they discussed the story among themselves – like a huge reading group 🙂
I didn’t even think of that, but that makes a lot of sense. I can imagine them discussing the story, making references to the characters, etc. Fun!
I loathe cigars, but I loooove that story!
Great, right? I keep thinking what other books would be interesting to hear in that context. Other adventure books for sure.
The original “audiobook”! What a great story. I’ll never think of the book or the cigar in the same way again. 🙂
An “audiobook” yes, haha 🙂
Oh, how I love these kinds of interesting tidbits!
I agree, though, with that writer fellow. I loathe the smell of cigars. They make me nauseous.
Origin stories are so interesting, right? My father used to smoke cigars and my grandfather used to smoke pipes, so the smell of good quality tobacco has wonderful associations for me.
I do recall my father’s pipe smoke with fondness. But cigar smoke has never agreed with me. It’s interesting to see how our olfactory sense is so tied into memory, isn’t it?
Literature makes everything better, I may take up smoking now as it seems really cool!
Haha, she says, rubbing her hands together, the propaganda worked! Another reader hooked!
Maybe it’s my imagination but the ones in the photo with the reader look happier. The job of the reader looks like a lot of fun too!
Being the reader would be a fun job indeed (probably the factory foreman I’m guessing?).
Could be – that’s a great way to make everyone want to go to work! I’m not so sure I could be the reader though. I’d probably fall off of that perch in about 10 seconds.
That is a quite a balancing act – hadn’t thought of that!
I don’t know if all that is true or if you’re pulling our legs Letizia. If true what a good job to have!
I would never pull your leg 😉
I remember reading “The Count of Monte Cristo” in 7th grade behind the facade of a math book during math class. But I did not know how prolific Alexandre Dumas was until I met my husband who has read all of the D’Artagnan Romances plus many others. To me, the idea of being able to share the joy, intensity, drama, poignancy of a story comes from the oral tradition. My mother read books to us (there were four of us) from “Pilgrim’s Progress” to “Mutiny on the Bounty.” As you know, I enjoy reading via audiobooks. My son and I read JRR Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings together, each one taking a page before the other took another.
Thank you for this post – and for generating a most excellent dialogue! Hugs coming your way…
I always love hearing your family reading stories! Reading Dumas in math class with the textbook hiding The Count of Monte Cristo is such a charming image!!!
hugs to you, Rebecca
How neat. I wish someone could read to me when I have to do housework. I might actually do it, then. 😉
That would be lovely, wouldn’t it? I’d like someone to read to me while I do the ironing.
You always discover the most interesting literary facts. 🙂
I like learning little stories like these 🙂
I wonder what book they would read today, if they still rolled cigars under the spell of an author?
Good question. Harder to think of living authors, but some of Marquez’s books are great read aloud.
Letizia I love how you dig up such interesting stuff on reading. I love that book and could imagine why they would want to name a cigar after it. Thanks for entertaining me and teaching me something I did not know again.
So glad you enjoyed the story about the novel and the cigar; it’s a fun little anecdote which I’ve always loved. Who doesn’t like being read to, right?
My children, both good readers still love me reading to them in a character voice, or they read to me for a bit of fun.
This is fascinating! I’m assuming it’s correct. Another example of the difference reading makes.
Yes, perhaps if I had been rolling cigars I could have gotten through it 😦 Is that terrible? Maybe I shouldn’t have attempted it right it after Moby Dick : /
It’s not my favorite Dumas either (I preferred The Three Musketeers). Oh dear, Moby Dick… I can’t get through that one either!!